Quantum simulators could help create tomorrow's pharmaceuticals

Trial and error define today's approach to developing new pharmaceutical drugs. But with their enormous computing power, quantum computers are expected to solve important and complex problems in medicine, biology and chemistry, while speeding up the discovery of effective medications. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have just received DKK 108.6 million (EUR 14.6m) from the Novo Nordisk Foundation for two new centers that will develop and use quantum simulators to help create tomorrow's pharmaceuticals.

10,000 years of work in 3.5 minutes. This was the conclusion of a tech giant in its initial bid for how long it would take a quantum computer to calculate a complex equation -- a calculation that would require 10,000 years of work by today's best computers to solve.

This same processing power will now be customized to develop new pharmaceutical drugs, currently an extremely time-consuming and complex process. Such increased processing power holds great potential. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute and Department of Mathematical Sciences have received a total of DKK 108.6 million (EUR 14.6m) from the Novo Nordisk Foundation to develop and use quantum simulators to develop new drugs.

The development of new pharmaceutical drugs currently involves a great deal of testing because conventional methods are unable to calculate how proteins and other complex systems will respond to new drugs. Quantum technologies present us with new opportunities to develop specialized quantum simulators that can be tailored to tackle these processes."

Professor Peter Lodahl, University of Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute

Professor Lodahl is receiving 60 million kroner (EUR 8m) for his research and will head the "Solid-State Quantum Simulators for Biochemistry" center, known as "Solid-Q". The center will work on applying and integrating two types of quantum simulation hardware which can perform quantum mechanical calculations of complex biomolecules.

The other centre is called "Quantum for Life" and is headed by Professor Matthias Christandl of UCPH's Department of Mathematical Sciences. This project aims to develop mathematical algorithms that can be used for the quantum simulation of biomolecules, which will in turn make it possible to study complex biochemical processes.

"The centre will develop and use customized quantum algorithms, and in doing so, allow us to open up a new chapter in 'computational life-sciences' here in Denmark. With the new center, I am pleased that the quantum mathematics we work on will be able to be used to solve important issues surrounding fundamental biological processes," says Professor Matthias Christandl, who has received DKK 48.6 million (EUR 6.5m) for his research.

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