How do you find a new approach to hackathons and conferences, in a world where almost everything has already been tried? Start-up Algorithmiq has an intriguing answer: take your teams, together with distinguished quantum colleagues, sailing.
On the face of it, an odd decision—but in practice, very reasonable. Sailing requires the crew to work as a team, building bonds between them. However, it is also a mixture of periods of frenetic activity interspersed with long stretches of sitting around, giving plenty of time to talk. By taking people out of their comfort zones, you may also get them to think differently.
Put all this together, and sailing starts to sound like an ideal opportunity to talk about big issues at work and develop solutions to problems. What’s more, this is not the only novel answer to an old problem that has been pioneered by Algorithmiq. The company’s whole existence is predicated on doing just that. Intrigued? Read on to find out more.
1. Algorithmiq exists to develop quantum algorithms for use in life sciences
Algorithmiq describes itself as ‘fuelling quantum computers with smart codes’. As quantum computers become a reality—and IBM has already produced several with considerable computing power—the next step is to provide the algorithms for them to use. Algorithmiq develops algorithms to be used on near-term quantum computers to solve life science problems. The main areas it operates in are predicting molecular structure, drug discovery and drug design.
2. Algorithmiq’s work is very much at the cutting edge of life science
Algorithmiq essentially provides a software platform that allows quantum computers to interface at a low level with algorithms that are used for drug discovery. For example, it focuses on the precise calculation of the binding properties of small molecules to protein pockets. Calculating binding affinities accurately is difficult on ‘classical’ computers because of the sheer number of options. However, quantum methods offer the potential to explore complex data sets relatively quickly and easily, and therefore scan more options.
3. The company’s main focus is currently pharmaceuticals, but there is another potential
Perhaps unsurprisingly given its main area of work, the company’s current focus is on partnerships with pharma companies. Its work is similar to that of other innovation platforms such as Evotech, but the novelty lies in the introduction of quantum computing. At present, the most viable route seems to be combining classical and quantum computing as a way to manage complexity, rather than focusing on quantum computing alone.
4. Algorithmiq is also working in partnership with IBM
As well as partnerships with pharma companies, Algorithmiq is also working closely with IBM, one of the leaders in quantum computing. The partnership focuses on finding a way to extract information from quantum computers to make the existing algorithms for quantum chemistry simulations scalable. This will allow them to be applied more widely, and to tackle commercial use cases of increasing complexity within the life sciences and beyond.
5. The company is rooted in academia and particularly research
Algorithmiq is led by CEO Sabrina Maniscalco, who is also an adjunct professor at Aalto University, and a professor of quantum information, computing and logic at Helsinki University. Co-founders Guillermo García-Pérez (CSO), Matteo Rossi (CTO), and Boris Sokolov, have worked as postdoctoral researchers at Helsinki University, University of Turku, and Aalto University in Finland. Others in the team have a similar background in academia. This gives Algorithmiq tremendous expertise to draw on, as well as a strong foundation in research.
6. Algorithmiq has successfully obtained both seed funding and Series A funding
In February 2022, Algorithmiq announced that it had been successful in raising $4 million in seed funding. Backers included a range of European and US investors and ‘business angels’. It has also recently closed Series A funding, meaning that it will be able to expand its operations.
7. The company’s leaders are alert to the challenges of expansion
Algorithmiq is headquartered in Helsinki, but many of its employees work remotely from Spain, Canada, the UK, Poland, the US, the Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary, and Germany. It therefore already has the challenges of managing a hybrid workplace. It addresses this through the use of collaboration tools, but also whole-staff meetings every two to three months. These are usually at the Helsinki office, but the company also holds events like its sailing conference. The company’s leaders recognise that the real challenge for the future will be to retain the close collaboration of a start-up, and the strong personal relationships between employees, as the company scales up its operations.
Next stop: Helsinki!
The Third Nordic Quantum Life Science Roundtable will take place on November 14-15, 2023, in Helsinki, Finland.