Quantum-enhanced DNA sequencing takes top prize at EQUS hackathon

The inaugural EQUS hackathon—Australia’s first quantum hackathon—brought together curious and innovative minds to identify the next applications of quantum technologies.

Over the four-day event, 188 participants from universities around Australia formed teams to explore ways in which quantum technologies could address industry challenges, and then pitched their ideas to our judges.

The winning team—Qrious Quants, consisting of students from the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia—pitched DNA sequencing using quantum sensing to avoid medical misdiagnosis.

They proposed combining nanopore nucleotide scanning sensors with quantum electron tunnelling to make personalised whole-genome sequencing cheaper and more robust.

By using quantum rather than classical sensing, they believe the process could also be made faster and more precise, potentially increasing the scanning rate by a factor of 20 and providing single- rather than multi-base resolution.

The runners-up—JustTimPhiCinta, from EQUS and the University of Sydney—pitched quantum memory hardware to run large quantum circuits for longer and to produce better results sooner.

Incorporating memory into a quantum computing scheme would enable circuits with better quantum volumes, enhancing to today’s quantum computers by drastically reducing the number of physical qubits required for certain applications.

Third place went to a proposal for quantum-computing-powered optimisation of a true bidirectional smart grid for home solar batteries and systems, by Ising_grid, a team of students from the University of Queensland.

The participants came from fields including science, business, engineering, health, law, humanities and IT, bringing with them a range of perspectives and industry challenges.

Dr Michael Harvey, EQUS’ Translational Research Program Manager, said that it was great the see such a wide range of ideas, with quantum solutions proposed for industries including transport and logistics, medicine and clean energy.

“It was exciting to discover new real-world applications for the quantum machines and technologies that EQUS is developing,” he said.

We are grateful to Defence Science Technology Group and IBM for sponsoring the event, to UQ Ventures, the judges, and all the panellists, mentors and participants for making the event a success.

View the pitch competition final below.

Major funding support

Australian Research Council

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present.