Quantum computing has the potential to prevent the onslaught of the next pandemic, Omkar Rai, a leading technology expert and director-general, Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), has said. Quantum computing refers to next-generation computing that can accelerate necessary calculations exponentially through the use of qubits – subatomic particles that have the superfast processing power, thereby enhancing optimisation. The Covid-19 pandemic has pivoted the focus towards emerging technologies to address global challenges.
“Quantum computing has opened new frontiers in research in cyber-security, communications, computing, among others,” he said. “Zoonotic diseases such as coronavirus, Ebola and SARS have had major health and economic implications worldwide. A typical vaccine development takes approximately 12-18 months. Quantum computing can speed up vaccine development by solving complex equations with higher accuracy than classical computing. Hence, quantum computing can help prevent the onslaught of the next pandemic and prevent the massive loss of human lives.”
The STPI DG added that collaboration would be the key to harnessing the potential of this emerging technology and realise the benefits it offers. In-depth and high-quality research with hands-on projects and partnership with various industry bodies and corporate will be the key to adopt quantum computing in India.
Quantum computing can play an instrumental role in vaccine development as it involves complex computing. The vaccine development process requires an understanding of the protein structure of the virus and its binding behaviour on the host’s cell through molecular simulations. A typical vaccine development process involves several stages of clinical trials.
Most of physics and chemistry are based on a single equation—the Schrödinger equation. Classical computing either truncates that equation or decodes the problem into a simpler form. But quantum computers simulate systems with great precision by parameterising and solving the equation.
India’s first satellite-based quantum communication experiment—the Quantum Experiments using Satellite Technology, or QuEST project was conducted in 2017. The government has announced the National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications (NM-QTA) in Budget 2020 with a total allocation of `8,000 crore for five years.