Quantum computing is coming to healthcare

Quantum computing, a futuristic concept that many of its proponents don't even fully understand, could be used to develop new medical treatments and protect personal health information.

The Chicago Quantum Exchange, an initiative that includes University of Chicago and Northwestern University, is getting started with $700 million for research that could lead to breakthroughs in medicine, the Chicago Tribune reported June 18.

The still-in-development computers could perform complex tasks outside the realm of modern computers, such as folding proteins, which could help develop drugs for hard-to-treat diseases such as Alzheimer's, according to the article. The technology will allow researchers to "push the boundaries of what is currently possible," University of Chicago professor David Awschalom, director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, health systems are preparing for the possibility that quantum computers could later decrypt patient data that is stolen nowadays. Kristin Myers, CIO of New York city-based Mount Sinai Health System, said this quantum threat could come within the next three to five years, so her organization hired Google spinoff Sandbox AQ to make its encryption systems quantum safe, CIO reported June 14.

"It sounds like a long time to start looking at this, but it’s really not," she told the website. "If we start this work now, it puts us in a better position of addressing this vulnerability before it's exploitable."

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