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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pharmaceutical giant Roche is partnering with a quantum computing startup to find new treatments for disease.

Why it matters: The ability of quantum computers to model reality at the most foundational levels positions it as an ideal tool for rapidly searching for new drugs — provided, of course, the computers themselves can work.

Driving the news: This morning Roche announced it would begin using specialized algorithms produced by Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC) to simulate quantum-level interactions in an effort to research new treatments for Alzheimer's and other diseases.

How it works: CQC doesn't build quantum computers, which harness the weird workings of quantum mechanics to perform computation at extraordinary scales. Rather, it designs custom algorithms that can produce useful insights when run on a quantum computer.

  • Roche will use CQC's EUMEN quantum chemistry platform to simulate quantum-level interactions in an effort to identify molecular combinations that could prove effective against disease.
  • Finding a new drug is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, but the sheer speed of quantum computers can accelerate that process, saving drug companies money and hopefully getting new treatments to patients faster.

Background: Roche had previously worked with graduate students at the University of Oxford on molecular simulations, while earlier this month the European drug discovery firm Boehringer Ingelheim announced a partnership with Google on quantum computing.

  • "Especially in chemistry and material science, the impact of quantum computing is going to be profound," Ilyas Khan, CQC's CEO, told Axios in an interview last year.

The catch: While powerful, quantum computers are still error-prone and unstable, which has limited their practical value.

  • That puts a premium on the development of custom algorithms that can get the most out of these systems.

The bottom line: As Khan told me, "ultimately you need a quantum system to understand a quantum system."

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

Cedric Richmond: We won't wait on GOP for "insufficient" stimulus

Top Biden adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" the White House believes it has bipartisan support for a stimulus bill outside the Beltway.

  • "If our choice is to wait and go bipartisan with an insufficient package, we are not going to do that."

The big picture: The bill will likely undergo an overhaul in the Senate after House Democrats narrowly passed a stimulus bill this weekend, reports Axios' Kadia Goba.