Major breakthrough in quantum algorithms: Qubit Pharmaceuticals and Sorbonne University drastically reduce the number of qubits needed to simulate molecules

Hyperion-1, the emulator that made this achievement possible, has been awarded €8 million in funding as part of the France 2030 investment plan

  • Thanks to a hybrid approach combining high-performance computing and quantum computing, it has been possible to calculate the properties of molecules using just 20 qubits, when purely quantum approaches would normally have required more than 250 logic qubits.
  • The drastic reduction (by a factor of 10) in the number of qubits needed to perform these calculations raises hopes of a near-term application of hybrid HPC-quantum computing, and reinforces Qubit Pharmaceuticals' goal of becoming the leader in molecular modeling-based drug discovery.

Paris, 10 July 2024 - Qubit Pharmaceuticals, a deeptech company specializing in the discovery of new drug candidates through molecular simulation and modeling accelerated by hybrid HPC and quan-tum computing, announces that it has drastically reduced the number of qubits needed to compute the properties of small molecules with its Hyperion-1 emulator1, developed in partnership with Sorbonne University. This world first raises hopes of a near-term practical application of hybrid HPC - quantum computing to drug discovery.

As a result of these advances, Qubit Pharmaceuticals and Sorbonne Université are announcing that they have been awarded €8 million in funding under the France 2030 national plan for the further de-velopment of Hyperion-1.


A world first that saves years in research

By developing new hybrid HPC and quantum algorithms to leverage the computing power of quantum computers in the field of chemistry and drug discovery, Sorbonne Université and Qubit Pharmaceuticals have succeeded, with just 32 logic qubits, in predicting the physico-chemical properties of nitrogen (N2), hydrogen fluoride (HF), lithium hydride and water - molecules that would normally require more than 250 perfect qubits. The Hyperion-1 emulator uses Genci supercomputers, Nvidia's SuperPod EOS, and one of Scaleway's many GPU clusters.

With this first proof of concept, the teams have demonstrated that the routine use of quantum computers coupled with high-performance computing platforms for chemistry and drug discovery is much closer than previously thought. Nearly 5 years could be gained, bringing us significantly closer to the era when quantum computers (noisy or perfect) could be used in production within hybrid supercomputers combining HPC, AI and quantum. The use of these new computing powers will improve the precision, speed and carbon footprint of calculations.


Soon to be deployed on today's noisy machines

To achieve this breakthrough, teams from Qubit Pharmaceuticals and Sorbonne University have developed new algorithms that break down a quantum calculation into its various components, some of which can be calculated precisely on conventional hardware. This strategy enables calculations to be distributed using the best hardware (quantum or classical), while automatically improving the complexity of the algorithms needed to calculate the molecules' properties. In this way, all calculations not enhanced by quantum computers are performed on classical GPUs. As the physics used allows the number of qubits required for the calculations, the team, by optimizing the approach to the extreme, has even managed to limit GPU requirements to a single card in some cases. As this hybrid classical/quantum approach is generalist, it can be applied to any type of quantum chemistry calculation, and is not restricted to molecules of pharmaceutical interest, but also to catalysts (chemistry, energy) or materials.

Next steps include deploying these algorithms on existing noisy machines to quantify the impact of noise, and compare performance with recent calculations by IBM and Google, and predicting the properties of molecules of pharmaceutical interest. To achieve this, the teams will deploy new software acceleration methods to reach regimes that would require more than 400 qubits with purely quantum approaches. In the short term, this hybrid approach will reduce the need for physical qubits on quantum machines.


Robert Marino, CEO of Qubit Pharmaceuticals, declares: "At the end of 2023, we announced quantum chemistry calculations using 40 qubits. A few months later, we've managed to solve equations that would require 250 logic qubits. An extremely rapid development that confirms the near-term potential of hybrid HPC and quantum algorithms in the service of drug discovery."


Jean-Philip Piquemal, Professor at Sorbonne University and Director of the Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory (Sorbonne University/CNRS), co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Qubit Pharmaceuticals, states: "This work clearly demonstrates the need to progress simultaneously on hardware and software development. It is by making breakthroughs on both fronts that we will be able to enter the era of quantum utility for drug discovery in the very short term."


Élisabeth Angel-Perez, Vice-President Research and Innovation at Sorbonne Université : "These innovative approaches developed by Qubit Pharmaceuticals are an illustration of Sorbonne Université's commitment to serving society. The precision and power of quantum computers offer major performance gains. With Qubit Pharmaceuticals, we measure the enormous potential of theoretical computing for quantum chemistry."


Sébastien Luttringer, Head of R&D at Scaleway : "We are proud to have participated in Qubit Pharmaceuticals' major algorithmic breakthrough with the support of our GPU computing power, the largest in the European cloud. Quantum computing is not just a hardware challenge, it's also a software one that we need to develop in order to solve real-world problems. Scaleway's pragmatic strategy, with the introduction of its QaaS (Quantum as a Service) service, is to simplify access to the best resources to help the algorithms of tomorrow emerge."



About Qubit Pharmaceuticals
Qubit Pharmaceuticals was founded in 2020 with the vision of co-developing new, more effective and safer drugs with pharmaceutical and biotech companies. A spin-off from the research work of five internationally renowned scientists - Louis Lagardère (Sorbonne University and CNRS), Matthieu Montes (CNAM), Jean-Philip Piquemal (Sorbonne University and CNRS), Jay Ponder (Washington University in St Louis), Pengyu Ren (University of Texas at Austin) - Qubit Pharmaceuticals leverages its Atlas platform to discover new drugs through simulation and molecular modeling accelerated by hybrid HPC and quantum computing. The multidisciplinary team, led by CEO Robert Marino, and the founders are based in France at the Paris Santé Cochin incubator and in the USA in Boston. Qubit Pharmaceuticals is supported and co-funded by the European Innovation Council (EIC). For more information, or to join the ambitious team, visit www.qubit-pharmaceuticals.com



About Sorbonne Université
Sorbonne Université is a world-class, multidisciplinary, research-intensive university covering the humanities, health, science and engineering. Anchored in the heart of Paris and with a regional presence, Sorbonne Université has 55,000 students, 7,300 teaching and research staff, and over a hundred laboratories. Alongside its partners in the Sorbonne University Alliance, and via its institutes and multidisciplinary initiatives, it conducts and programs research and training activities to strengthen its collective contribution to the challenges of three major transitions: a global approach to health (One Health), resources for a sustainable planet (One Earth), and changing societies, languages and cultures (One Humanity). Sorbonne Université is committed to innovation and deeptech with the Cité de l'innovation Sorbonne Université, over 15,000 m2 dedicated to innovation, incubation and the link between research and entrepreneurship, as well as the Sorbonne Center of Artificial Intelligence (SCAI), a "house of AI" in the heart of Paris, to organize and make visible multidisciplinary AI research. Sorbonne Université is also a member of Alliance 4EU+, an innovative model for European universities that develops strategic international partnerships and promotes the openness of its community to the rest of the world. www.sorbonne-universite.fr



About Scaleway
Since 1999, Scaleway, an iliad Group Cloud provider, has been offering cloud solutions tailored to all industry sectors, with a focus on exceptional user experience. Scaleway offers a complete range of cloud and AI products, as well as managed services. Scaleway guarantees a secure and reliable environment to meet the needs of Europe's most demanding customers. www.scaleway.com



About GENCI
Created by the public authorities in 2007, GENCI is a major public research infrastructure that aims to democratize the use of digital simulation through high-performance computing combined with the use of artificial intelligence, and now quantum computing, to support French scientific and industrial competitiveness. GENCI has three missions:

  • Implement the national strategy for making high-performance computing, storage and massive data processing resources associated with AI technologies available to French open scientific research, in conjunction with the three national computing centers.
  • Support the creation of an integrated HPC ecosystem at national and European level.
  • Promote digital simulation through HPC in academic research and industry.
  • GENCI is a civil company, 49% owned by the French government, represented by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, 20% by the CEA, 20% by the CNRS, 10% by the Universities represented by France Université and 1% by Inria.



Media contacts



Qubit Pharmaceuticals
Nicolas Daniels – ndaniels@ulysse-communication.com – +33 (0)6.66.59.22.63
Charles Courbet – ccourbet@ulysse-communication.com - + 33 (0)6.28.93.03.06


Sorbonne Université
Manon Durocher - manon.durocher@sorbonne-universite.fr - +33 (0) 1 44 27 92 49
Claire de Thoisy-Méchin - claire.de_thoisy-mechin@sorbonne-universite.fr
+33 (0)1 44 27 23 34 / +33 (0)6 74 03 40 19


Scaleway
James Martin – jamartin@scaleway.com - +33 (0)7 49 47 62 96

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