Here I am, writing an article during my quarantine. Our lives have been changed drastically with many families facing the horrors of the virus first hand.
The crazy part is, this isn’t rare. Over the past decades and centuries, many human populations have been wiped out by plagues, pandemics, and infectious diseases. Events like the Spanish Influenza, H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic, Polio, Ebola.
The list goes on.
The diseases that we were once scared of are now gone. But here’s the reality: these infectious diseases will only get stronger.
It’s science, it’s nature, and you can thank Darwin. The idea of Natural Selection- where the most reproductively successful will survive and produce the next generation of organisms- has been a great advantage for us as humans, but also could lead to the brink of our extinction.
So far, we’ve been able to advance our technology by quite a bit, but it hasn’t been enough. The only way we can outsmart these infectious diseases is simply, by building immunity! However, the solution right now is the problem.
Breaking Down Why a Virus is the Biggest Threat to Us
It seems quite weird to think that something so small is a problem that’s so big. Many viruses continuously mutate, such as the Influenza flu which makes it so hard to develop a vaccine. At the same time, there are so many types of vaccines that are made but only some end up helping the body to build immunity.
The main difference between a drug and a vaccine is that a vaccine helps the body to build immunity and kill off a virus, whereas a drug actually does the dirty work. With vaccines, it can help prevent the infection of the virus and an overload of patients since they are immune to the virus.
But discovery a drug isn’t that easy. The image above is the usual R&D process and it’s a long time for a fully approved drug to roll out on the markets. On top of this, most drugs end up failing in human trials because they end up being safe and ineffective. The reason being- what works in a lab may not work in the body. Especially with vaccines.
Our bodies are so complex and there are so many components that work together; simply testing cells and vaccine candidates in-vitro won’t produce the same results as a test in the body. To get the most effective and safe drug for humans, the R&D process should maintain randomized trials so that the data is minimally biased.
Okay, so the drug discovery process is safe, but it’s still long. With Pharmabit, our goal is to accelerate this process by stimulating the body and drugs so we can find the most efficient and safe vaccine to stop deadly pandemics once and for all.
Step 1: Identifying the Virus and it’s DNA Structure
Identifying viruses that cause infectious isn’t hard at all. In our case, we can use existing principles and techniques to identify if the virus is infectious and what the sequence is.
To identify if the virus is infectious, scientists use Koch’s postulates. These are 4 basic rules that enable us to recognize if the virus is infectious or not. The 4 rules are:
- The organism must be found in people with the disease and be absent in people without the disease.
- The organism must be able to be grown from tissues or other specimens from the affected individual in the laboratory.
- The organism must cause the disease when given to an unaffected healthy person.
- The organism must again be grown from this second individual.
After identifying We have many techniques for different organisms with an accurate one being the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). In this test, we can amplify and anneal certain segments of viral DNA/RNA and find the sequence of the virus. Based on previous outbreaks and pandemics, our system will be able to trace back similar DNA/RNA sequences, how similar they are, and potential vaccine candidates.
Taking advantage of Immunological Memory
Our bodies are really special. We are able to recognize certain pathogens and remember them so we can stimulate a certain immune response upon recognition. This works by the following:
Essentially, here we see that our bodies first recognize an antigen, build antibodies ad bind to the cell with the surface antigen. From there on, T-Cells kill all the cells with the certain antigen exposed.
Vaccines usually aim to build that immunity by exposing our bodies to these antigens. At Pharmabit, our goal is to utilize the DNA/RNA sequence to trace back similarities between other past viruses, their vaccine candidates and hypothesize the repurposing of them.
Moreover, since antigens are proteins built by the viral nucleotide sequence, our goal is to predict the antigenic cartography of the strain. By analyzing the sequence at which the virus produces the specific antigen, we would be able to accelerate the process of the production of DNA vaccines.
Simulating the Effect on the Human Body
At Pharmabit, our main goal is to accelerate the process of vaccine discovery, and we would do so by stimulating the immune cells in the body. In the process of building immunity, we would use the based sequence multiple different populations.
We would work to recognize different epigenetic and genetic biomarkers on B-Cells which help build the body antibodies and use the sequence to build protein-profiles.
By building these protein profiles, we would be able to predict the motion and probabilities of the immune response on these populations. We would use parallel computational powers and Quantum Annealing to find the optimal DNA vaccine and advance the testing process.
A Quick Intro into Quantum Annealing and How it Works
Quantum Annealing is the process in which we utilize the fundamental principles of quantum physics to solve optimization problems.
At Pharmabit, we are looking to optimize to find the most effective dosage to build a sufficient amount of antibodies.
In order for this to work, we would be solving an energy optimization problem. Most things aim to find its lowest energy state; when you heat something up, you’re essentially increasing the kinetic energy, and by cooling it down, it’s finding the lowest energy state. In our case, we wouldn’t be actually solving for the bottom line lowest, but other candidate options that could maximize our results.
Quantum Computing is really weird, but it’s so fascinating. In order to accomplish our goal, qubits, which have the special power to be in a superposition (in between 0 and 1 rather than 0 or 1) will be forced using biases to be pushed into the state of 0 or 1. These biases can influence whether it becomes a 0 or 1.
We will also use couplers to entangle qubits, which would be favored to either be opposite or the same as each other. For example, if one qubit is 0, we could favour it to be a 1 which lowers the lowest energy state. With a complex series of couplers and biases, the quantum computer will be programmed and will find the minimum energy level- in our case, the best vaccine candidate.
Where are we Now?
To this day, we aren’t exactly in the optimal position to start our work. Our goal is to help advance quantum computing and gearing it to be prepared to accomplish our goals in the future.
At the moment, IBM has their cloud quantum computing options opened with over 150 billion programs run on it; for COVID-19, using existing data, they have been able to identify 77 potential drug candidates.
The problem right now is how we haven’t quite been able to map out the immune response of B-Cells using the nucleotide sequential data from the pathogen. At Pharmabit, our goal is to accelerate the process, by working with leading quantum experts so we could reach our vision.
Our main goal at the moment is to ensure that we first accelerate the technology before anything else. For the next 5 years, we hope to develop and continuously test our quantum annealing technologies. We will have a main focus on gaining more data on the microscopic level prior to simulating it. In 2026, we hope that researchers are testing our technology so we can help put these pandemics to an end.
At Pharmabit, our main vision is a world that no longer has to face the dreaded horrors of pandemics, with the heroes that save us dying, and an invisible enemy. In sum, we want:
1. Sequence a potential pathogen
2. Using our Quantum computing program, we identify potential vaccines from previous pandemic/viral outbreaks
3. Predict the antigenic cartography and build a vaccine
4. Simulate that on the human body and accelerate the long discovery process
And that’s how we plan to save the world.