Cleveland Clinic, IBM to lead new quantum computing for health projects

Photo: Cleveland Clinic

The Wellcome Trust has selected the Cleveland Clinic-IBM Discovery Accelerator to develop proof-of-concept demonstrations of quantum computing for biologic and health applications through the Wellcome Leap Quantum for Bio Challenge.


Q4Bio by Wellcome Leap, a U.S.- based nonprofit organization aiming to accelerate and increase the number of breakthroughs in global health, seeks to codevelop health applications that demonstrate benefit from the use of quantum computers and are expected to emerge over the next three to five years.

In addition to an award for up to $40 million to fund two projects that focus on the manifestation of disease and use of quantum physics to prevent and treat cancer, the team may receive $10 million in challenge prizes for successful, scalable technologies and approaches.

Cleveland Clinic and IBM installed the first quantum system dedicated to healthcare research on the main campus earlier this year, according to Wednesday’s announcement. 

Since Cleveland Clinic and IBM announced their intentions to advance biomedical research through high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and quantum computing in 2021, the Cleveland Clinic-IBM Discovery Accelerator researchers have been working on a portfolio of projects that generate and quickly analyze large amounts of data for a wide range of disease-focused research.

Deployment of the quantum system was a key milestone in the organizations’ 10-year partnership, said Cleveland Clinic and IBM.

For Q4Bio, the accelerator will focus on protein-conformation prediction with quantum computing, which could lead to new insights into how proteins function and interact with other molecules to better understand the manifestation of diseases and develop more effective, targeted therapies.

The team will work to develop quantum algorithms and workflows to explore how they could contribute to the creation of universal, scalable methods for predicting protein structures more accurately and quickly. 

For the second project, Algorithmiq joins the collaborators to create a set of computational tools that aims to explore how quantum computing could assist in the development of photon-activated drugs for cancer.

The quantum computing for photon-drug interactions in cancer prevention and cancer treatment will leverage Algorithmiq’s drug discovery platform, Aurora, which uses IBM’s quantum hardware, and Cleveland Clinic’s experience developing drug applications.


Quantum computing can turbocharge healthcare data analytics, benefitting medical imaging, pathology and more.

“This technology holds tremendous promise in revolutionizing healthcare and expediting progress toward new cares, cures and solutions for patients,” said Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Tom Mihaljevic in a statement announcing the health system’s deployment of IBM Quantum System One.

“Quantum and other advanced computing technologies will help researchers tackle historic scientific bottlenecks and potentially find new treatments for patients with diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes,” he added.

The use of quantum physics to help destroy cancer cells in a study by Kyoto University, announced in 2021, used X-rays on tumor tissue containing iodine-carrying nanoparticles, triggering cancer cell death within three days. 

At the time, researchers said they were able to produce a quantum-physics phenomenon inside a cancer cell by generating low-energy electrons close to DNA and inflicting damage difficult to repair, which eventually led to programmed cell death. 

When the IBM supercomputer was first deployed at Cleveland Clinic this past March, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna noted how Quantum System One would enable researchers to “explore and uncover new scientific advancements in biomedical research. By combining the power of quantum computing, artificial intelligence and other next-generation technologies with Cleveland Clinic’s world-renowned leadership in healthcare and life sciences, we hope to ignite a new era of accelerated discovery.”

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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