We briefly explored quantum computing; its potential to accelerate medical breakthrough by processing different problems of various magnitudes at an incredible rate, and whether we should expect some form of a “gold-rush” in an earlier blog entry. Coincidentally, on the same day, Google published an article on Nature, saying its scientists had achieved “quantum supremacy” – a term first used in 2012, to describe how quantum computers could outperform classical computers to work out problems in a rapid manner. 

Indeed, according to Google, computing time has now been reduced from 10,000 years to about 200 seconds. However, the supposed game-changing moment got a little diverged when the other players in the room, such as IBM, rebuffed classical computers could jolly well share similar capabilities shall there be the right optimization. Likewise, Christopher Monroe, founder of quantum startup IonQ, believed Google’s achievement was more academic than practical.  

Possible blessing 

Some of them may be right, after all, quantum computing research formally begin in the 1980s, we are succumb to many practical challenges like the lack of expertise and infrastructures to bring the field forward. Nevertheless, in the area of medicine, some had already speculated the things quantum computing could realize in the near future. 

One of them lies in the sequencing and analyses of genomics or omics data. Currently, some companies deploy machine learning to do the job, underlining genetic variations to derive at personalized treatment options; find out whether patients will response to certain types of treatment, or learn their genetic risks for diseases. With quantum computing, the process can take place even faster and at a cost-effective manner. 

On the other hand, the equally lengthy and costly processes required to create a novel medication may be eliminated. Companies like Atomwise uses convolutional neural network to screen over 100 million compounds on a daily basis, to reduce the months-long process of uncovering drug candidates into one day. Quantum computing could possibly level the game by going through all molecules and combinations in incredulous speed. 

Clinical trial is the next tricky process after a novel drug has been found and developed. Recruitment of patients to participate in these trials is a huge challenge on its own, especially those concern rare medical conditions. Some patients may opt out when they realized they are given placebo.

In silico medicine or the use of technology to model, simulate or visualize biological and medical processes is sometimes render as an alternative. Quantum computing may advance the building of virtual human beings and complete simulations of all physiological and chemical processes, unlocking the possibility of clinical trials involving “non-living” subjects.

Possible stress

The speed of how quantum computers could process information is now worrying some cybersecurity experts. Shall quantum computing get popularized, deciphering encryptions that are protecting personal information could take place in no time too. This put our medical and healthcare records at high risks of being breached. This means we can no longer rely on cryptographic algorithms in the long run and ought to move towards quantum computing attacks.

In the coming AIMed 19, James Dzierzanowski, Executive Director, Strategic Advisory Services at Kaiser Permanente will lead attendees into a wider discussion of quantum computing and the urgency to address new possibilities and challenges arise as a result.

Session Focus: Session 10 – The future of AI in medicine

When: Saturday, December 15th 2019 (11:15 – 12:00)

This is a session with exerts exploring, 1) The unknown: How quantum computing could possibly disrupt healthcare? 2) The “what if”: How could children’s healthcare be changed globally, if all 500,000 healthcare machines in all the children’s hospitals in the world are connected, and 3) The near future: Four NASA astronauts are planning to launch to Mars and they will travel for 2.5 years, how can technology best support human health and performance in deep space exploration?

Attendees will gain the following knowledge:

Be informed of the latest technologies beyond artificial intelligence and their impact on medicine and healthcare.

Benefit from the first-hand information given by experts working in these new research projects.

Review on existing practice and critically

Exchange your ideas and opinions with experts and fellow delegates on how these new technologies and possibilities affect the future of medicine and healthcare.


Vimla L. Patel. Senior Research Scientist and Director of Center for Cognitive Studies in Medicine and Public Health, New York Academy of Medicine.


Timothy Chou. Lecturer, Stanford University.

James Hury. Deputy Director and Chief Innovation Officer, Translational Research Institute for Space Health.

James Dzierzanowski. Executive Director, Strategic Advisory Services, Kaiser Permanente.


Author Bio

Hazel Tang A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.