$200M Granted for Denmark Quantum Program

Grant to build quantum technology dedicated to drug discovery, climate change, green economy
Berenice Baker

September 21, 2022

A blue-lit computer chip
The Nordisk Foundation Quantum Computing Program aims to build a dedicated life sciences quantum computer.Novo Nordisk Foundation

International medical research enterprise the Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a $200 million grant to establish the first full-scale quantum computer dedicated to life sciences.

The 12-year Novo Nordisk Foundation Quantum Computing Program aims to build a quantum computer optimized to support the development of new medicines and provide new insights into climate change and the transition to a green economy.

The foundation launched the program in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, and the team includes quantum researchers from Denmark, Canada, The Netherlands and the U.S.  They plan to work from the ground up, developing quantum materials and hardware as well as algorithms to solve problems that current classical computers cannot.

One aim is to support the development of personalized medicine by analyzing genomic data sets and gaining insights into the complex interactions of the human microbiome. Other research efforts will design new sustainable materials, deliver new energy-saving

products and assist with discovering new approaches to decarbonization.

Novo Nordisk Foundation natural and technical sciences senior vice president Lene Oddershede said that quantum computers have particularly revolutionary potential in the life sciences as nature has many quantum mechanical systems that cannot currently be classified and properly understood. A quantum computer has an inherent capability to solve such tasks.

"Within the life sciences, for example, we can accelerate development in personalized medicine by letting quantum computers process the enormous quantity of data available about the human genome and diseases,” Oddershede said.

“This will make it easier to tailor optimal treatment. In the Quantum Computing Program, physicists and engineers will work closely with researchers from the life sciences on a daily basis. The development of the technology will be guided by concrete biological experiments and problems, and this close interdisciplinarity is a crucial parameter for success."

Part of the funding will go towards establishing Quantum Foundry, a fabrication facility that will supply materials and hardware to the researchers. It will spend the first seven years of the program developing the materials and hardware for the quantum computer and building three candidate quantum computing platforms.

It will spend the second half of the project scaling the selected platform up to a size so that it becomes usable for university and industry researchers and using it to solve life sciences problems.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Program differs significantly from previous quantum computing programs, according to Nils Bohr Institute University of Copenhagen professor Peter Krogstrup Jeppesen, who is leading the quantum computing program.

"The other major initiatives globally have already chosen their platforms and are trying to optimize them,” he said. “But we predict that many will run into a dead end at a time when there will be fundamental limitations either in the quality of qubits or in terms of scaling up.

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