Cleveland Clinic Gets Its Own IBM Quantum Processor For Advanced Biomedical Research

Cleveland Clinic Gets Its Own IBM Quantum Processor For Advanced Biomedical Research

This appears to be the year that IBM’s Quantum Computing program reaches the tipping point. IBM and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation just announced the first deployment of an onsite, private sector, IBM-managed quantum computer in the United States. However, beyond the placement of a 127-qubit IBM Eagle quantum processor in a cafeteria at Cleveland Clinic’s main campus, this announcement signals a major leap forward for quantum computing applications.

Of course, the most immediate question is, why install a quantum computer in a cafeteria? Although this may seem like a frivolous question, it gets to a major point of this article. The IBM Eagle class quantum processor has been installed in a highly visible location in the Cleveland Clinic so that biomedical researchers and physicians can start thinking about the most productive ways to use this resource. These are very early days for the development of quantum computing applications, so installing the IBM Eagle quantum processor in the cafeteria, visited daily by nearly everyone working at the Cleveland Clinic, seems like an extremely creative way of keeping the machine ever present in the minds of people working at the facility.

Dr Lara Jehi, who became Cleveland Clinic’s first Chief Research Information Officer in 2020, said that there are many areas of interest in medical research with computational ceilings that block further advances. Quantum processing may help break through those ceilings. Researchers at Cleveland Clinic, working with IBM data scientists, combed through the possible avenues for research, discipline by discipline, to identify the projects most likely to bear fruit when matched to quantum processing’s current capabilities. “Quantum is still a nascent technology,” said Jehi.

Jehi divides the current quantum-based biomedical research into two broad groups: quantum chemistry (drug discovery) and quantum machine learning (ML). The quantum chemistry projects focus on finding new drugs or new purposes for existing drugs. These projects are staggeringly complex due to the sheer size of the data sets that need processing. The core tasks in these projects are simulating cell site binding by the candidate drug molecules. These problems have a very large number of dimensions, and quantum processing is known to be extremely well suited to these sorts of problems.

Current quantum chemistry research projects at Cleveland Clinic include:

  • Identifying protein targets by mapping the complex interplay of proteins and solving the foundational challenge of form-changing protein surfaces in structural biology.
  • Accelerating the prediction of molecular docking between drug candidates and proteins.
  • Exploring protein-drug interactions and protein ligand binding through quantum chemistry algorithms to accelerate drug discovery.

Quantum-assisted ML, an extension of classical artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, seeks to find ways to simplify massive data sets, which consist of patient data from cohorts as large as 150,000 patients, by winnowing the features or dimensions of the data sets that are important to a specific research problem from the features or dimensions that are not important. Current quantum ML research projects at Cleveland Clinic include:

  • Developing a quantum-based physician scheduling algorithm that efficiently and most effectively takes advantage of a physician’s time, expertise, and resources.
  • Exploring the assembly of large genomes through preliminary benchmarking studies to develop a foundational technology for discovery and translation of natural products.
  • Creating optimized radiation therapy treatment plans for individual patients based on patient data.
  • Developing a deeper understanding of cardiovascular risk for non-cardiac surgery patients using perioperative morbidity and mortality data to improve clinical and patient outcomes.
  • Developing optimized clinical trials with accelerated timelines while reducing the number of trial participants and associated costs.

Cleveland Clinic has additional quantum chemistry and quantum ML research projects in the planning stage. “It’s not just about quantum processing being faster; it’s about doing what has been impossible” said Jehi.

IBM currently has six quantum computing centers located around the globe. The quantum processor installation at Cleveland Clinic is the first to be exclusively devoted to biomedical and healthcare research, which is the focus of one of four IBM quantum processing working groups. The other three quantum processing working groups are focused on high-energy physics, high-performance computing (HPC), and finance. IBM is partnering with different companies and institutions for each of these quantum processing working groups.

Aparna Prabhakar, Vice President, IBM Quantum Partner & Alliances, says that IBM has been partnering with Cleveland Clinic for a while now. According to Prabhakar, the goal of the 10-year Cleveland Clinic-IBM Discovery Accelerator partnership, which was announced in 2021, is two-fold. One goal is to identify real-world problems that may benefit from quantum processing. The second goal is to find ways to make the unique abilities of quantum processing available to researchers working in various disciplines without requiring them to understand the underlying quantum technology.

These working groups and partnerships help IBM develop the quantum-based programming tools that data scientists and researchers need to attack many challenges in their respective disciplines. These quantum programming tools abstract away the complexities of quantum processing in the same way that high-level programming languages abstract away the machine instructions, registers, and memory spaces of conventional von Neumann processor architectures.

IBM announced the 127-qubit Eagle quantum processor a year and a half ago. This is the quantum processor that’s been installed at the Cleveland Clinic. At its Quantum Summit late last year, IBM unveiled its 433-qubit Osprey quantum processor and plans to have the first of these processors online by the end of this year. (See “IBM Prepares For Quantum Computing Inflection Point.”) While the company is developing these bigger and faster quantum processors, IBM’s quantum processing working groups are helping to make quantum processing a practical computing tool for multiple disciplines.