D-Wave today made its quantum computers available for free to researchers and developers working on responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. D-Wave partners and customers Cineca, Denso, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Kyocera, MDR, Menten AI, NEC, OTI Lumionics, QAR Lab at LMU Munich, Sigma-i, Tohoku University, and Volkswagen are also offering to help. They will provide access to their engineering teams with expertise on how to use quantum computers, formulate problems, and develop solutions.

Quantum computing leverages qubits to perform computations that would be much more difficult, or simply not feasible, for a classical computer. Based in Burnaby, Canada, D-Wave was the first company to sell commercial quantum computers, which are built to use quantum annealing. D-Wave says the move to make access free is a response to a cross-industry request from the Canadian government for solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Free and unlimited commercial contract-level access to D-Wave’s quantum computers is available in 35 countries across North America, Europe, and Asia via Leap, the company’s quantum cloud service. Just last month, D-Wave debuted Leap 2, which includes a hybrid solver service and solves problems of up to 10,000 variables.

Quantum computing and COVID-19 applications

D-Wave and its partners are hoping the free access to quantum processing resources and quantum expertise will help uncover solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. We asked the company if there were any specific use cases it is expecting to bear fruit. D-Wave listed analyzing new methods of diagnosis, modeling the spread of the virus, supply distribution, and pharmaceutical combinations. D-Wave CEO Alan Baratz added a few more to the list.

“The D-Wave system, by design, is particularly well-suited to solve a broad range of optimization problems, some of which could be relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Baratz told VentureBeat. “Potential applications that could benefit from hybrid quantum/classical computing include drug discovery and interactions, epidemiological modeling, hospital logistics optimization, medical device and supply manufacturing optimization, and beyond.”

Earlier this month, Murray Thom, D-Wave’s VP of software and cloud services, told us quantum computing and machine learning are “extremely well matched.” In today’s press release, Prof. Dr. Kristel Michielsen from the Jülich Supercomputing Centre seemed to suggest a similar notion: “To make efficient use of D-Wave’s optimization and AI capabilities, we are integrating the system into our modular HPC environment.”