French start-ups win $40M for quantum drug discovery project

Quantum computer

French start-ups Pasqal and Qubit Pharmaceuticals are among the 12 selected performers for the Quantum for Bio programme in consortium with the Unitary Fund.

Together with the Unitary Fund, Pasqal and Qubit will receive $4.5 million of the total $40 million awarded through the various milestones under the Quantum for Bio programme.

The goal of their combined project is to design a new quantum algorithm that will accelerate the discovery of drugs based on small chemical molecules, and to implement it on Pasqal’s neutral atom quantum computer.

Loïc Henriet, CTO of Pasqal, commented: “Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry, and the partners in the consortium bring together all the expertise needed to target high-impact results for the field in the short term. We would like to thank the Wellcome Leap organisation for the trust placed in our project.”

Launched in spring 2023 by Wellcome Leap, an offshoot of the Wellcome Trust, Quantum for Bio aims to accelerate the use of quantum computing in healthcare by developing applications that will benefit from the arrival of quantum computers within three to five years.

The 12 Quantum for Bio winners are: Algorithmiq Inc; Cleveland Clinic; Infleqtion; Harvard University; NASA Ames Research Center; PASQAL-Qubit Pharmaceutical-Unitary Fund; qBraid Co; QC Ware Corp; The University of Sydney; University of Cambridge; University of Copenhagen; University of Nottingham.

Jean-Philip Piquemal, Co-Founder & CSO of Qubit Pharmaceuticals, said: “This work will accelerate drug discovery through simulation and modelling. The new algorithm is used in the early stages of the process – target identification and technical evaluation. Qubit Pharmaceuticals’ objective since its creation has been to halve the time needed to screen and select a candidate of interest, and to optimise it; and to more than halve the investment required.”

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