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Biogen, 1QBIT
and Accenture:



Biogen is recognized as a biotechnology innovator and leader in pharmaceutical research and development.

Its mission:

To treat and ultimately cure neurological and neurodegenerative conditions.

It also seeks to apply its insights—in combination with cutting-edge technologies—to pursue treatments for rare and genetic disorders and explore entirely new ways to treat disease.

Quantum computing offers great potential to solve difficult business problems in entirely new ways through quantum-enabled optimization, sampling and machine learning algorithms. In collaboration with 1QBit, a quantum software company, Accenture Labs is conducting quantum business experiments through newly available quantum hardware platforms and software application programming interfaces (APIs).

Accelerating drug discovery through quantum-computing molecule comparison Today, it takes pharmaceutical companies up to 10+ years and often billions of dollars to discover a new drug and bring it to market. Improving the front end of the process with quantum computing can dramatically cut costs and time to market, repurpose pre-approved drugs more easily for new applications, and empower computational chemists to make new discoveries faster that could lead to cures for a range of diseases.

Revolutionizing the molecule comparison process Quantum computing has the potential to change the very definition of molecular comparison by enabling pharmaceutical and material science companies to develop methods to analyze larger-scale molecules. Today, companies can run hundreds of millions of comparisons on classical computers; however, they are limited only to molecules up to a certain size that a classical computer can actually compute. As quantum computers become more readily available, it will be possible to compare molecules that are much larger, which opens the door for more pharmaceutical advancements and cures for a range of diseases.


Accenture Labs’ researchers collaborated with Biogen to identify the quantum-enabled optimization processes most beneficial to the company. Currently, pharmaceutical and material science companies use a variety of computational intensive methods to review molecule matches and predict the positive effects of potential therapeutic approaches while reducing negative side effects. There is clear opportunity for quantum computing to outpace the existing computing method and improve results.

One crucial area of focus emerged: Molecular comparison, an important process in early-phase drug design and discovery.

Accenture Labs worked with 1QBit (which offers a quantum software platform and APIs with pre-developed algorithms) to adapt their pre-developed structural molecular comparison algorithm and cloud-based API to include Biogen’s additional pharmacophore requirements. The objective was to improve the fidelity of the molecule comparison modeling by enabling Biogen to take a hybrid approach and weight different molecule variables for comparison, a clear advantage over the traditional “black-box” comparison model.


The critical proof-of-concept phase

Accenture and Biogen achieved a breakthrough that verified the quantum enabled method for molecular comparison was as good or better than existing methods, an advancement that indicates quantum computing has the potential to significantly improve the pharmaceutical industry’s drug discovery process and improve patient outcomes.


The quantum enabled method provided more contextual information about shared traits between compared molecules versus the traditional method, which only infers trait matches


The quantum enabled method allowed Biogen’s scientists and researchers to see exactly how, where and why molecule bonds matched, offering better insights and the potential to help expedite drug discovery


From exploration to application

Based on the momentum from these breakthroughs, Accenture built a quantum molecule comparison application for Biogen. The application presents several clear advantages over classical computing:

Front end: Provides unprecedented transparency into molecular experimentation with a user-friendly interface to select molecules, comparison criteria and weight of importance.

Back end: Utilizes 1QBit’s API and cloud-based algorithm for initial processing and quantum computing processing, and then translates the answer into results to display in Biogen’s application—all in a matter of seconds. To reduce quantum computing processing costs, Accenture’s application stores a library of results generated from the molecular comparison queries which can help further speed Biogen’s drug discovery methodology.

black box

Innovation delivered


In just over two months,

Accenture Labs, 1QBit and Biogen progressed from an exploratory conversation about quantum business experimentation, to a proof of concept that validated the quantum computing molecule comparison approach, to an enterprise-ready, quantum-enabled application with transparent processes that generates molecular comparison results with deeper insights about shared traits.

Using the traditional molecular comparison method to run comparisons on millions of molecules in conjunction with this quantum-enabled application to dive deeper and gather more contextual information on selected results offers Biogen a distinct competitive advantage through time to market and cost savings.

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