Cleveland Clinic, IBM unveil first quantum computer dedicated to biomedical research

Two years after announcing a 10-year tech partnership, Cleveland Clinic and IBM unveiled the IBM-managed quantum computer installed on-site to accelerate healthcare research.

The organizations billed it as the first quantum computer in the world to be uniquely dedicated to medical research with an aim to help Cleveland Clinic accelerate biomedical discoveries. It also marks the first deployment of an onsite private sector IBM-managed quantum computer in the United States, according to the tech giant.

Cleveland Clinic CEO Tom Mihaljevic, M.D. called the quantum computer's unveiling a "pivotal milestone" in the health system's partnership with IBM.

The hospital also plans to receive the first next-generation IBM 1,000+ qubit quantum system in the coming years, the organization said in a press release.

Last March, Cleveland Clinic and IBM announced a 10-year partnership focused on high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and quantum computing technologies. The two organizations also unveiled plans to develop a center called the Discovery Accelerator, with the aim of advancing the pace of discovery in healthcare and life sciences through the use of the tech company's hybrid cloud, including AI and quantum computing technologies. 

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

Tech companies like IBM, Microsoft and Google are racing to build reliable quantum computers.

Quantum computing is a rapidly emerging technology that harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems that today's most powerful supercomputers cannot practically solve, IBM says. The ability to tap into these new computational spaces could help researchers identify new medicines and treatments more quickly, according to executives.

"This technology holds tremendous promise in revolutionizing healthcare and expediting progress toward new cares, cures and solutions for patients," Mihaljevic said in a statement. "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."

Arvind Krishna, IBM Chairman and CEO, said by combining the capabilities of quantum computing, artificial intelligence and other next-generation technologies with Cleveland Clinic's leadership in healthcare and life sciences, the organizations "hope to ignite a new era of accelerated discovery."

IBM launched its quantum system in 2017. The company says it now has 28 deployed quantum computers on the cloud and partners with more than 100 Fortune 500 companies, academic institutions, national labs and startups as part of its quantum network.

Researchers aim to use IBM's computing technologies, including high-performance computing via the hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence to generate and analyze massive amounts of data to enhance research. 

By using IBM Quantum System One, researchers at Cleveland Clinic aim to discover new treatments and medicines more quickly.

Current projects include developing quantum computing pipelines to screen and optimize drugs targeted to specific proteins, improving a quantum-enhanced prediction model for cardiovascular risk following non-cardiac surgery and the application of AI to search genome sequencing findings and large drug-target databases to find effective, existing drugs that could help patients with Alzheimer's and other diseases, according to Cleveland Clinic in a press release.

The Discovery Accelerator also serves as the technology foundation for Cleveland Clinic's Global Center for Pathogen & Human Health Research, part of the Cleveland Innovation District.

RELATED: Rise of the machines: Novo Nordisk Foundation pledges $200M to create first quantum computer for life sciences

The center, supported by a $500 million investment from the State of Ohio, Jobs Ohio and Cleveland Clinic, brings together a team focused on studying, preparing and protecting against emerging pathogens and virus-related diseases. 

Cleveland Clinic is co-investing $300 million as part of its commitment to the Cleveland Innovation District. That $565 million initiative involves three major hospital systems and two universities—Cleveland Clinic along with MetroHealth System, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University—collaborating to create about 20,000 jobs and boost research in the city.

A significant part of the collaboration is a focus on educating the workforce of the future and creating jobs to grow the economy. An innovative educational curriculum is being designed for participants from high school to the professional level, offering training and certification programs in data science, machine learning and quantum computing, Cleveland Clinic and IBM executives said.

Founded in 1921, Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit academic medical center. It includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 19 hospitals, more than 220 outpatient facilities, and locations across the US and globally.