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BASF’s patent uses quantum computing to optimize protein design

DNA abstract 3D polygonal DNA
July 5, 2023

Designing a protein or DNA to have specific characteristics or perform specific functions is a complex and challenging computational task. Quantum computing presents a promising avenue for revolutionizing protein design by leveraging its immense computational power and ability to simulate complex molecular interactions.

Proteins are made up of different building blocks called amino acids, and modifying certain parts of the amino acid sequence can improve or change the protein’s properties. However, exploring all possible combinations of changes becomes too complex for regular computers. Although software using simulated annealing-based heuristics can find good solutions rather quickly, it still has its limitations.

BASF’s patent, “Media, methods, and systems for protein design and optimization” proposes a technique that involves employing AI or machine learning algorithms to establish an initial arrangement of amino acids based on a desired protein property. This AI or ML generated sequence serves as the foundation for constructing the protein structure. To enhance the quality of this structure, specific amino acids are replaced by different ones at identified positions. The newly formed proteins are then evaluated and scored according to their adherence to the targeted protein property. All these optimization steps are executed through a quantum computing algorithm, ultimately selecting the most optimal protein form through calculations that yield highest scores.

The patented method by BASF includes an additional step where experiments are conducted using the optimized protein. These experimental data help determine various properties of the protein, such as its stability and efficacy. Subsequently, this data is utilized to train the AI or ML algorithms to enable them to recognize and establish a relationship between the optimized protein and its measured characteristics.

BASF, a company known for chemical manufacturing, has also entered the protein-infused skincare business. Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, the company has also designed synthetic peptides specifically for skincare purposes.

US 11,657,894 was filed on July 6, 2021 and granted on May 23, 2023 to BASF SE.

More on quantum technology in our 2023 Technology Trends Report.

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