Category Archives: Tech Trends

D-Wave Takes Giant Leap in Computing with Advantage

Everyone in computing is familiar with the idea of Moore's Law, that computing power doubles every two years, but quantum computing could be making that premise a bit of an anachronism. Recently growth in the field of quantum computing has been accelerating at a rate that makes this seem like an antiquated adage of a simpler time.

This is especially evident in the news this week that D-Wave systems have released the first quantum computer designed to be used in commercial applications, The Advantage. The Advantage features 5000 connected qubits, a number that Frederic Lardinois from TechCrunch notes is over 2.5 times as large as their previous offering of 2000 connected qubits. This larger hardware is able to interconnect 15 interconnections simultaneously versus utilizing 6 interconnections in previous iterations.

These changes create a massive explosion in the computing power offered by the Advantage computer, giving it the ability to handle up to 1 million independent variables. Using their advanced Pegasus chip to link qubits, the computer is able to natively solve problems with between 600-800 variables, providing for a wide variety of commercial applications. As D-Wave CEO Alan Baratz told Emil Protalinski of Venture Beat, "There is no other quantum computer anywhere in the world that can solve problems at the scale and complexity that this quantum computer can solve problems. It really is the only one that you can run real business applications on. The other quantum computers are primarily prototypes. You can do experimentation, run small proofs of concept, but none of them can support applications at the scale that we can.

Putting computing power like this in the hands of innovators, researchers, and companies that are seeking to solve previously unsolvable problems is tremendously empowering. POLARISqb will have the ability to utilize platforms like the Advantage to power chemical and molecular searches on a scale that was previously unfathomable in the industry, optimizing the pace of drug discovery in ways never seen in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. With the pace of innovation in the world of quantum expected to continue and accelerate, it is our goal to make molecular analysis and protein targeting faster than ever before, developing the ability to provide treatments and cures for all diseases and all people.

WRAL TechWire: Durham quantum-computing startup launches drug discovery platform it says is much faster

WRAL Techwire

DURHAM – Polaris Quantum Biotech (PQB) is coming out of stealth mode to launch a new drug discovery platform with UK-based Fujitsu that could help the global effort to quickly find a vaccine for coronavirus.

Calling it “ground-breaking,” Polaris says the platform is a combination of quantum-inspired technology, machine learning, hybrid quantum mechanics and molecular mechanics simulations (QM/MM).

The result, its co-founder Dr. Shahar Keinan says, is a new solution that enables significantly faster and cost-effective discovery of de novo lead molecules (repeat identification) that are used for the development of new drugs.

For many diseases the right drug still hasn’t been found, she added, and outbreaks such as the coronavirus are only highlighting the necessity for faster processes to find a cure in our world of global interconnections.

“We identified quantum computing as a technology at an inflection point that can dramatically reduce the cost and time it takes to develop new drugs,” said Keinan,  who once served as a post-doctoral fellow at Duke University and also co-founded Cloud Pharmaceuticals, also based in Durham, where she acted as chief scientific officer.

“We are actively tracking scientific developments with COVID-19 and are pursuing avenues to add our technology to the world-wide efforts to create small molecule drugs to combat this pandemic.”

The new platform will be able to produce up to 100 drug blueprints per year, the company says, compressing the lead time for preclinical drug candidates “from five years to four months,” enabling real time adaptability to the precision medicine market.

“The industry is therefore in profound need of innovation to speed up the drug discovery process,” Keinan said. “It is the combination of quantum computing and personalized medicine that Polaris will deploy in combination with these new targets to transform health for all people.”

$250,000 IN EQUITY

For those not in the know, quantum computing is the area of study focused on developing computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature and behavior of energy and matter on the quantum (atomic and subatomic) level.

Keinan co-founded the company with Bill Shipman, a former research scientist with The Scripps Research Institute,  while both were working at Cloud Pharmaceuticals. When Cloud Pharmaceuticals became a holding company, they licensed part of their technology for development.

The startup, which is currently located in Durham’s American Underground with three employees recently, raised around $250,000 in equity, according to a recent securities filing.

Keinan said the funds would be used towards developing a full platform prototype from two proof-of-concept studies, including its collaboration with Fujitsu.

Under the partnership, the platform will use Fujitsu’s quantum-inspired Digital Annealer to search an exponentially larger molecular space (over 1 billion molecules) compared to current market techniques for new lead molecules.

Polaris says this platform can operate 10,000 times faster than any alternative solutions in the market. The short list of lead molecules identified by the Digital Annealer is then connected to Polaris’ proprietary machine-learning algorithm and quantum mechanics and molecular mechanics simulations (QM/MM) to quickly assess whether the molecules possess all the characteristics that a drug requires.

The resulting high-quality lead molecules are taken to synthesis and testing and finally to licensed pharmaceutical partners for further development, the company said in its release.

The current pilot is identifying the right molecules necessary to develop a treatment for dengue fever, a wide-spread disease with 100 million infections and 22,000 deaths every year. There is still no treatment for dengue fever that is suitable for all people affected.

The new lead molecules for a dengue fever drug are estimated to be made available for partners to take through to the next stages in the drug discovery process by this May.

In parallel,Polaris and Fujitsu said they are exploring the many other disease targets with pharmaceutical partners.