Can quantum computing be easily explained?

Understanding quantum computing and its potential still at beginner level for most life sciences professionals.
20 September 2021

Quantum computing explained to most businesses may be confusing. As the technology becomes mainstream, many are still struggling to understand how the technology works and how it can benefit their organization in the future.

The global quantum computing (QC) market is expected to reach US$ 3.7 billion by 2030 despite the challenges in keeping qubits stable. Some major quantum computing success stories include IBM Quantum System One in Europe to help companies and research organizations develop and test applied quantum algorithms.

Google announced plans to build a commercial quantum computer that can perform large-scale calculations without errors by the end of the decade while a Chinese startup, Origin Quantum, launched the country’s first homegrown operating system for a quantum computer.

But according to results of a survey from The Pistoia Alliance, almost half of life science professionals claim to only understand QC technology at a beginner level. Only less than 10% of the professionals admitted having expert understanding of QC.

For life science professionals, Quantum computing explained to them should be easier to be understood compared to other professionals. However, with 48% only at beginner level, applying the technology in use cases is still far off despite the significant noise generated by the potential of QC.

According to Celia Merzbacher, Executive Director at QED-C explained that, “In the last year alone, quantum computing hardware and software advances have been made, and access to technology via the cloud continues to improve. As a result, the barriers to entry in quantum computing for life sciences are lower and the number of collaborations are on the rise. This recent shift is seen in the survey results, where limited access to QC infrastructure as a barrier has decreased compared to a year ago.”

Merzbacher added that QC promises to have an enormous impact on many industries, including life sciences. The technology is already seeing clear near-term applications and uses that can help to advance the industry.

Source – The Pistoia Alliance

Barriers to quantum computing  

While the potentials of quantum computing explained to industries may be showing some positivity, the barriers to launching QC projects still continue as well. The survey shows that a lack of understanding of QC and the inability to articulate valuable uses (35%) were some of the of the reasons. This was followed by lack of skills (29%), lack of access to QC infrastructure (15%), and cost (11%).

At the same time, these challenges are now being addressed by Pistoia Alliance Quantum Computing Community of Interest, in partnership with QED-C and QuPharm. Getting quantum computing explained in the C-suite and raising funds for development of use cases for the technology are just some of the steps taken. Pistoia Alliance member companies in the quantum computing field that are also helping to drive forward innovation, include Cambridge Quantum Computing, Zapata Computing, Molecular Quantum Solutions, QunaSys, Qubit Pharmaceuticals and QC Ware.

Interestingly, 36% of respondents believe that QC will impact the biopharma industry within the next five years. With life science specific use cases now emerging from QC companies and consortia, there are clear signs of rapid short-term development and adoption. For example, Menten AI has developed a drug discovery project to build proteins using D-Wave’s platform, as part of the Creative Destruction Lab’s Quantum bootcamp.

“Quantum computing is the next computational approach our organization is looking to utilize. It will help us to remove constraints in drug discovery and solve large optimization problems that have required too much time or computing power to previously progress,” commented a Senior Director of R&D IT from a top ten pharma company.

For John Wise, a consultant for the Pistoia Alliance, the global collaborative network is perfectly placed to help the industry develop use cases and to de-risk investments in innovative technology. However, he believes the seismic shift it promises to deliver will not be possible if they can’t define the applications that gain buy-in from stakeholders and the C-suite.

Indeed, the challenges of any new technology would be getting the C-suite to understand it. While its still early days for QC, the alliance should look to getting QC explained to the right people, be it life science professionals or C-Suite executives, in the hopes that the technology can be used to its full potential once its available.