Cleveland Clinic unveils IBM Quantum System One

Through their 10-year Discovery Accelerator partnership, Cleveland Clinic and IBM have unveiled the IBM-managed quantum computer, billed as the first of its kind in the world dedicated to healthcare research.

Installed on the Clinic’s main campus, the IBM Quantum System One aims to help accelerate biomedical discoveries and is the first deployment of an onsite private sector IBM-managed quantum computer in the United States, according to a news release.

Related: Cleveland Clinic’s losses exceed $1 billion in 2022

With the Clinic’s expertise in healthcare and life sciences and IBM’s expertise in technology, the two organizations each bring different skills and competencies to the partnership, said Ruoyi Zhou, director of the IBM Discovery Accelerator at Cleveland Clinic.

“We have something in common; that is innovation,” Zhou said. “And so, when we work together, we identify problems that are really suitable for quantum computing and artificial intelligence.”

A rapidly emerging technology, quantum computing harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems that are currently impractical or impossible to solve on today’s supercomputers. The IBM Quantum System One, which will be made available for use through collaborations at a cost, and its new computational spaces could help researchers discover medicines and treatments more quickly.

For instance, bringing a drug from discovery to a patient can take upwards of 17 to 20 years, said Dr. Serpil Erzurum, the Clinic’s chief research and academic officer. This technology can potentially accelerate that timeline to just two to three years, meaning if a patient gets sick and providers know the cause, “this could design the right drug treatment for you,” she said.

“And as a physician caregiver, and as you know, a human being and a mom, you want things soon, you don’t want to wait for them, right?” she said. “You don’t want to wait 20 years.”

The Clinic and IBM are both contributing resources to the effort, with the Clinic’s cost being part of its $300 million commitment to the Cleveland Innovation District, a $565 million multi-institution, public-private push to create 20,000 jobs and boost research in the city.

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The Cleveland Clinic-IBM Discovery Accelerator partnership, announced in 2021, focuses on advancing the pace of biomedical research through the use of high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, according to the release. It serves as the technology foundation for the Clinic’s Global Center for Pathogen & Human Health Research, which is part of Cleveland Innovation District.

Through the innovation district overall, the Clinic estimates 1,000 new jobs will be generated at the system by 2029 and an additional 7,500 jobs in Ohio by 2034.

An 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, according to the news release, which notes a “significant part” of the collaboration focuses on job creation, economy growth and educating the workforce of the future.

“We are committed to developing the community ability for digital work,” Erzurum said. “If you know how to work in this digital world, your opportunities expand exponentially.”

IBM and the Clinic also are hosting research symposia, seminars and workshops intended for academia, industry, government and the public in an effort to build a critical mass of computing specialists in Cleveland, according to the release.

While many universities are teaching artificial intelligence, there aren’t enough of those skills in the marketplace, Zhou said. And finding quantum computing skills is very difficult.

“We’re looking at how do we build a workforce by partnering with universities, local universities, to develop the quantum skills locally,” Zhou said.

To help expedite discoveries in biomedical research, the Discovery Accelerator has generated multiple projects that leverage the latest in quantum computing, AI and hybrid cloud, including, according to the release: developing quantum computing pipelines to screen and optimize drugs targeted to specific proteins, improving a prediction model for cardiovascular risk after non-cardiac surgery and applying 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.

Accelerating innovation and discovery of new drugs and targeted treatments will “dramatically” bring down costs, Erzurum said.

“So this, to me is a big part of our precision medicine initiative, the affordability of health care and drugs, and the time to treatment, all of which are critical when you have a very terrible disease,” she said. “So that is my dream. And I want to see it happen here at the Cleveland Clinic and in Cleveland, Ohio, while I’m still living. I think it’ll happen.”

This story first appeared in Crain’s Cleveland Business.

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