Always Innovating

Cleveland Clinic’s IBM partnership to bring first quantum computer onsite to a U.S. health system in 2023.


January 2023 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting


The first onsite quantum computer in U.S. healthcare is set to be located on Cleveland Clinic’s main campus by early 2023. It is a key part of a 10-year partnership between Cleveland Clinic and IBM aimed at fundamentally advancing the pace of biomedical research through high-performance computing.

The Cleveland Clinic-IBM Discovery Accelerator is a joint center that leverages Cleveland Clinic’s medical expertise with IBM’s technology expertise. The IBM-managed quantum computer will advance high-performance computing in healthcare through:

  • A Generative Toolkit for Scientific Discovery and other generative modeling capabilities leveraging AI to infer knowledge gaps and generate hypotheses, and ultimately aim to speed up the research process in therapeutics and biomarkers discovery.
  • RXN, a cloud-based platform that combines AI models and the ability to directly control robotic labs to enable end-to-end design and synthesis of new chemical compounds.
  • Deep Search, a next-generation AI tool for generating insight from large amounts of structured and unstructured technical literature.
  • High-performance hybrid cloud computing technologies that enable researchers to “burst” their workloads into the cloud and access the resources they need at scale.

“Cleveland Clinic is always innovating,” Steve Downey, chief supply chain and patient support services officer for Cleveland Clinic, told an audience at IDN Insights East in Philadelphia, hosted by The Journal of Healthcare Contracting, this fall. “We’re encouraged to, and IBM’s quantum computing is the latest example of that.”

The lab team at Cleveland Clinic is working on a good manufacturing practice (GMP) facility for individualized medicine to work in tandem with the Discovery Accelerator, according to Downey.

“It’s in the future, but you’ll show up, get your DNA scanned, figure out the best possible treatment for you, which might include a gene correction, and we’ll be able to manufacture it right next door,” he added. “You’ll be treated before you go home with an individualized therapy.”

The Discovery Accelerator has already developed a quantum computing method to screen and optimize drugs targeted to specific proteins, improve a prediction model for cardiovascular risk following non-cardiac surgery, and use AI to search genome sequencing findings and large drug-target databases to find effective, existing drugs that could help patients with Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

The collaboration between Cleveland Clinic and IBM is also focused on educating the workforce of the future and creating new jobs. An educational curriculum has been designed for participants from high school students to professionals, offering training and certification programs in data science, machine learning and quantum computing to build a skilled workforce.

“AI learning is needed by everyone,” Downey said. “Clinicians will run decisions through AI guidance in the future, but risk is always clinicians’ biggest worry. So, keeping them up to date on new improvements in products is critical.”

Educating the supply chain team

Just as Cleveland Clinic leans on IBM for its technology expertise, it also leans on its manufacturers and suppliers to educate its supply chain team about new products.

“Supply chain leaders are sitting at board meetings now,” Downey said. “So, any insights that manufacturers and suppliers can provide us about their products or their processes allows us to have better conversations at board meetings.”

Cleveland Clinic uses Excelerate Strategic Health Sourcing, a joint venture with Ohio Health and Vizient, to work with other health systems on products, education and innovation. “We work with them on what’s happening in sourcing and what’s new,” Downey explained.

Imagine Cleveland Clinic as a three-wheeled bicycle, Downey said – like an old Big Wheel from childhood. The patient carries the big wheel at the front and that’s what matters most, but the back two wheels are education and innovation at the Cleveland Clinic.

“It’s always on the cutting edge,” he said. “With IBM, we’re getting the first quantum computer. With Oracle, it was a development agreement to do new things. And for a lot of our suppliers, it’s what extras can be done.”

Supply chain is the bridge in the organization and in the chain of many business relationships for Cleveland Clinic. “Suppliers can help educate our supply chain team in being that bridge,” Downey said. “It’s our sourcing team’s job to know what’s happening in the market. It helps them to learn from the suppliers about their latest products and their latest technology.”

The Life Sciences and Healthcare Quantum Innovation Hub

Thanks to its work in advancing medical research through quantum computing, Cleveland Clinic was selected as a founding partner and the leading health system in a new initiative meant to spur collaboration and innovation in the quantum computing industry. The Life Sciences and Healthcare Quantum Innovation Hub, based in Greater Washington, D.C., is set to prepare the industry for the burgeoning quantum era and align with key national and global efforts in life sciences and quantum technologies.

Cleveland Clinic’s role is to define the future of quantum computing in healthcare and disseminate education to other health systems about the possibilities. The Discovery Accelerator center on Cleveland Clinic’s main campus was supported by a $500 million investment from the state of Ohio, Jobs Ohio and Cleveland Clinic. “The current pace of scientific discovery is unacceptably slow, while our research needs are growing exponentially,” said Dr. Lara Jehi, chief research information officer for Cleveland Clinic, in a statement. “We cannot afford to continue to spend a decade or more going from a research idea in a lab to therapies on the market. Quantum offers a future to transform this pace, particularly in drug discovery and machine learning.”