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Quantum computing will revolutionize cancer research, says D-Wave’s Farris

Quantum computing cancer research
D-Wave co-founder Haig Farris.

Quantum computing and machine learning will impact most all parts of human life, but one of the first and most compelling benefits we will see is in the field of cancer research, says one expert.

Zero and One Media’s Katya Pinkowski sat down with D-Wave co-founder Haig Farris recently to talk about the world-leading, Burnaby-based quantum computing company as it creeps closer to commercialization.

Asked what areas of life quantum computing would impact, Farris said there really won’t be part of society that won’t be touched by it, but that one of the most noticeable out of the gate will be cancer research.

“Whether it’s brain research or cancer research, understanding and being able to model and learn from various ways you might design a drug to address a particular cancer this is going to be probably the most important application that you and I will benefit and notice,” said Farris.

When queried about how soon we would begin to see the impact of the company’s work, the D-Wave co-founder said we are already living in the quantum computing era.

“It’s happening now,” he said. “We’ve been working with some startup companies on some machine learning applications for drug design. There’s probably things within the next three or four years that will have had an impact in drug design that nobody will be talking about but it will have, in fact, happened. Ten years from now you will probably be being treated with some quantum computing designed drug.”

Did fire change our life? Did the wheel change our life? Did the Industrial Revolution with steam engines change our life? The impact of quantum computing will be bigger than any other…

When asked if quantum computing will change the life of the everyday person, Farris was unable to hold back his enthusiasm about the work the company is doing.

“I guess the way to answer that question is: “did fire change our life? Did the wheel change our life? Did the Industrial Revolution with steam engines change our life?” The impact of quantum computing will be bigger than any other, and that matched with machine learning which is a software application of quantum computing…that will change our lives in ways we can’t even anticipate at this point.

In 2011, D-Wave announced the creation of the D-Wave One, which it described as “the world’s first commercially available quantum computer”.

Then, in 2015, the company revealed that its D-Wave 2x was being used by NASA’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab in Mountainview, California.

The company has seen its quantum machines in use by Google, Lockheed Martin and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Over its 16-year history, D-Wave has been able to raise more than $200 million in funding, including from investors such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Goldman Sachs and the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Last month, Farris was honoured for his achievements by being named an officer of the Order of Canada.

Below: Katya Pinkowski tours the D-Wave facility in Burnaby, BC, and sits down with Haig Farris.


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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.
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