As quantum computing rapidly develops with its new generation of computing power, it offers great promise for new, previously unattainable, applications in a number of industries. At or near the top of that list is the pharmaceutical industry because of the complexity of developing effective new drugs and the time required to develop those drugs, while untreated disease continues to rampage, with devastating effect on the health and welfare of society. One need look no further than the Covid pandemic to see the compelling need for prompt development of new pharmaceutical products and treatments.
Drugs are extremely complex molecules that must interact with other complex organic molecules in the body. Any difference in the structure of those molecules – no matter how minute – can have a profound effect on the efficacy of a drug or on its side effects. It is a far cry from high school chemistry. Among the millions of potential molecules that offer potential solutions, researchers can do no more than make an educated guess as to which possibilities may be effective. As a result, many variations of molecules must be tested, most of which will be dead ends. Even then, many potential prospects must be ignored because they cannot be evaluated.
Quantum computing provides an excellent tool for improving and expediting this research process. The vast increase in processing power enables researchers to perform hundreds of millions of comparisons of different complex molecules. Those simulations provide a good prediction of what molecules may provide effective treatment. In this regard, quantum computing provides three basic benefits. First, it enables rapid sorting through millions of potential compounds to determine which are likely to be effective, and which are not. Second, it can limit the field of compound candidates selected for further review to a smaller number of potential targets, reducing the scope – and the resulting time and cost – of that review. And third, it can provide complex simulations of the selected compounds to identify the compound that is the most promising and effective. As a result, quantum computing offers the prospect of screening more potential candidates than can be done now, identifying a more limited number of potential drug candidates than can be done now, and identifying the best potential drug through better simulations than can be done now. In short, quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize drug development.
To date, most research relating to quantum computing has been focused on developing the quantum technology itself. However, there are already a substantial number of projects underway directed to applications in which quantum computers can significantly improve things like efficiency and profitability in various contexts. Development of new pharmaceutical products and treatments is chief among those applications.
Many challenges remain developing practical applications and bringing them to fruition in the pharmaceutical industry. A number of companies are actively working to overcome these challenges. There can be no question that, with continued investment, innovation, and development of quantum computing technology, these challenges will be overcome and products designed with the aid of quantum computing will play an increasingly important role in medicine as the next generation of groundbreaking pharmaceuticals becomes available for treatments.
The expanding future of the pharmaceutical industry is important, not only because of the health benefits it will provide, but also because of the financial benefits to those who develop and bring important new products to market. Quantum computing should be key to achieving this innovation, and revolutionize the way drugs are developed and tested. It is important to stay up-to-date on the impact of quantum computing on the pharmaceutical field, whether you are a researcher, an investor or a medical services provider.