Could the Corona Virus cause a Quantum Winter?

Could The Corona Virus Cause A Quantum Winter?

Even if you are hiding out in your bunker somewhere in New Zealand to hide from the Coronavirus you cannot fail to notice the widespread financial impact of the virus – especially in Europe which is thought to be ahead of the curve in terms of severity, compared to North America. Around the world equities (stocks) are falling as people take notice of the fallout that is occurring to countries around the globe which seems as if there is no end in sight.

The Domino effect

As investors take from typically safe stocks and shares and move into cash (even that might not be safe if things get really bad), what is this going to do to longer term investment horizons? – one of which is Quantum Computing which has only recently caught the attention of mainstream investors and institutional investors that are typically involved in the digital space. However, this flight to safer assets puts the nascent field of Quantum Computing at risk of a Quantum Winter as investors decide that cash on the side-lines is a better and safer bet than remaining invested in risky assets.

Could The Corona Virus Cause A Quantum Winter?
The Corona Virus has caused worldwide panic and fears of an economic crisis. Image from CDC (

Quantum Upsides?

As governments look to control the virus, any sector which can assist the quest for a vaccine or cure would be very welcome. Could Quantum help in the quest for drugs that could slow down or eradicate the virus?

Researchers have started looking at how quantum computers can help with drug discovery. Simply put, simulating with a Quantum computer is the closest we can get to nature. So when trying to understand how a drug binds to a site, if we can faithfully replicate this at the quantum level we can simulate real life.

There are some tools already at the disposal for the researcher, typically the VQE or Variational Quantum Eigensolver. These near term techniques are helping researchers integrate quantum computing into their techniques for simulating molecular (and drug systems). For example IBM (which we cover at QZ) supports the Quantum Open Source framework qiskit which allows researchers to implement VQE and has dedicated modules for quantum chemistry – named qiskit chemistry.

Granted only certain types of problems can be solved such as optimization, but if the problem can be constructed in such a way then there can be some advantages to using a Quantum Computer.

Quantum Computing does Chemistry

It’s not all about physics. Don’t just lump quantum with physics. Companies such as Biogen with Accenture have been using quantum solutions to look at drug discovery.

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.

Accenture and BIOGEN

Whether or not any quantum computing solutions are being employed in the quest to eradicate the Corona virus we do not know. Of course, we would not be surprised to see companies looking at using and exploiting Quantum Techniques in Drug Discovery if that can provide some advantage.

Quantum Investment Prognosis

Sadly much of the media is now dedicating itself to coverage of the virus outbreak. The latest notification from MIT’s technology review was that it was devoting itself to coverage of the virus. That means that less column space will be given to Quantum developments. We hope here at QZ to keep bringing you the latest in Quantum Computing news and events with the occasional story about the impact of the Corona virus.

With so many eyeballs and minds focused on the Coronavirus, it could be hard for investors around the world to think beyond the short term, Meaning longer-term bets in Quantum technologies could be forsaken for either no investment or at least nearer-term investments (which are unlikely to be Quantum).

We also expect sadly that companies that are trying to raise funds will struggle in this investment climate which appears to be battening down the hatches. The likely the nearer term projects are to commercial the more likely funds will be interested.

Our investor contacts who were not traditionally involved in the Quantum space were as of last year starting to ask questions and understand whether there was likely to be an opportunity for them in the Quantum space. We are expecting this interest to diminish somewhat as many companies are preparing to delay floats and likely many write-downs are taking place as we speak meaning there is less appetite for risk.

Avoiding a Quantum Winter

For companies seeking investment currently, seek more funds then necessary. If you are currently in negotiations with investors it may be advisable where possible to raise more then you explicitly need for the simple reason that you want to ensure survival for much longer. Investors are notorious for pulling out at the first sign of weakness – so do not assume that you’ll be able to raise in the next funding cycle – aim to get more right now. This advice comes from a seasoned entrepreneur and investor.

Ensure that your staff remain safe – after all these are the most vital aspects of any business. Follow the advice of the government and remember that no advancement is worth the health of your staff.

Keep communication lines open with partners and associates. In the fast-moving news cycle with hourly developments, ensure that you communicate clearly to everyone and at the frequency which makes sense for you. That includes reaching out to partners, investors etc. This engenders trust.

Focus on what is important and do what you can given the circumstances. Many businesses will also be facing the same constraints. And again – stay safe.