IBM’s first ‘retail’ quantum computer is headed to the Cleveland Clinic

The new tech could help with breakthroughs in genomics, single cell transcriptomics and population health.


Quantum computing has been positioned as a revolutionary tool for healthcare that can help with everything from clinical trials to disease registries to electronic health records. Now more than ever, with the world in the throes of a pandemic, it's easy to see the advantages of the new tech for medical professionals. To reap some of those benefits, the Cleveland Clinic is partnering with IBM on a "Discovery Accelerator" that will see it utilize quantum computing tools combined with AI and cloud technologies.

As part of the 10-year collaboration, the non-profit medical center will become the world's first private sector company with an on-premises IBM quantum computer. The system is the first machine of its kind to be built by the company to be sold outside of its own facilities. In the future, the Cleveland Clinic will also purchase a 1,000+ qubit IBM next-generation quantum system for installation at a data center in its home town. Researchers plan to use the cutting edge tools to crunch mountains of data that could help with breakthroughs in genomics, single cell transcriptomics, population health, clinical applications, and chemical and drug discovery.

Unlike traditional computers that use individual bits to store information in binary states, quantum machines harness the principles of quantum theory to deliver massive leaps in processing power. Their basic unit of memory is a quantum bit, or qubit, that can take different arrangements as part of a system known as "superposition." Qubits can also be linked together using a phenomenon called quantum entanglement. This effectively allows the computers to perform one billion or more copies of a computation at the same time. In a nutshell, the computers can be used to solve far larger mathematical problems than their current counterparts, including in areas like encryption and artificial intelligence.

The Discovery Accelerator will serve as the "technology foundation" for Cleveland Clinic’s new Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health. Over the next decade, researchers will use IBM's cloud, robotics and quantum computing tech to remotely design and synthesise molecules, analyze the molecular features in viral and bacterial genomes to boost drug discovery, and break down and potentially obtain deeper insights from structured and unstructured data at a faster rate than ever.

“Through this innovative collaboration, we have a unique opportunity to bring the future to life,” said Tom Mihaljevic, M.D., CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic. “These new computing technologies can help revolutionize discovery in the life sciences. The Discovery Accelerator will enable our renowned teams to build a forward-looking digital infrastructure and help transform medicine, while training the workforce of the future and potentially growing our economy.”