It has been almost a year since SandboxAQ was spun out of Alphabet (parent company of Google) and a lot has happened since then. They recently announced they have raised $500 million in venture capital which is a large amount and particularly large since they are not developing quantum computing hardware. So we talked with SandboxAQ CEO, Jack Hidary, to find out more about their major areas of efforts and get a sense of how they may deploy their capital.

SandboxAQ has three major product areas including quantum cybersecurity, computation chemistry, and quantum sensing. To the casual observer, they are most well-known for their quantum cybersecurity efforts and have been holding webinars or making conference presentations on the topic every month. A key piece of technology they hold is an AI Discovery Engine that can find all the places where encryption is used. Recently, SandboxAQ has been using this tool to run encryption inventories at banks, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and telecom companies. They have been finding usage of not only current classical encryption algorithms like RSA, but also some very obsolete algorithms such as the MD5 and SHA-1 hashing algorithms that were developed in the 1990’s and broken over the past 10 or 20 years. Implementing the upgrades to Post Quantum Cryptography will be a long process for enterprises not only because of the many places where encryption is used, but also because some of these old implementations were done with embedded code and not as a self-contained module. When implementing the newer PQC algorithms, the intent will be to implement them in a more modular, crypto-agile manner so that the algorithms can be upgrades or swapped out if needed. So this will require not only a changing the algorithms, but in some cases, changing the structure of the software to go from embedded code to modular crypto-agile subroutines.

As part of their efforts in quantum cybersecurity, SandboxAQ has already acquired French company Cryptosense, but has also made investments in two additional quantum security companies, eVolutionQ and Qunnect. One of the unique aspects of SandboxAQ’s strategy is their intent on growing through acquisitions and strategic investments in other companies. The company has a Strategic Investment Program that will invest in technical startups passionate about building the AI+quantum ecosystem (AQ) and Hidary indicated they are actively seeking new investment and acquisition opportunities with the large cash reserves they currently hold.

A product area of SandboxAQ that is lesser known is that of drug discovery. The company is working on projects that use quantum-inspired computations using huge arrays of high performance GPUs using tensor network algorithms. They indicate they have a new approach in that uses a generative approach that starts with a certain molecule and then adds permutations to it and run simulations that check for chemical properties. Other approaches of AI-based computational drug discovery start with a large library of compounds and then run simulations on the different ones to see which one is best. The benefit of the SandboxAQ approach is that a company doesn’t need a large library of candidates to get started. The market for AI+Quantum drug discovery is very large and the potential drug development cost savings for the pharmaceutical companies will be huge. Hidary forecasts within 4-5 years all new drugs that will be approved will have been developed using these computation chemistry approaches rather than the classical trial-and-error methods previously used.

Their software is all hybrid in that it uses both classical CPUs and GPUs in different parts of the algorithms. This approach has only become recently possible with the significant advances in GPU performance within the past few years. Although the current quantum processors are not currently powerful enough to outperform the large GPU clusters, the tensor network software can migrate to the quantum computers once the more powerful machines are available. SandboxAQ is using outside cloud providers for the CPU/GPU resources. One of the benefits of being independent of Google is that they are now able to work with other cloud providers such as AWS or Microsoft Azure to use the one that best services their needs. Hidary indicated they are working with several biopharma companies on this effort for drugs in the Alzheimers, Parkinson’s Disease and Oncology areas , but he declined to name them right now due to confidentiality requirements.

The third area is quantum sensing. The company recently won an SBIR award for developing a ultrasensitive quantum magnetic sensor for navigation. By creating a map that records the magnetic fields ahead of time, an airplane flying over a particular area can use a magnetic sensor to compare it with the information on the map and figure out where it is when GPS is unavailable. Another significant usage of a quantum magnetic sensor is in medical diagnostics. For example, a quantum magnetic sensor could be used in place of an EKG for heart diagnostics and may be able to enable improved diagnoses.

A year ago when SandboxAQ was spun off, they had about 55 employees. A quick check on LinkedIn shows there ar 129 employees listed with staff located in over 8 different countries. So the company has more than doubled in size over the past year and will undoubtedly use some of their funds to continue to grow staff at a fast pace. Sixty-five percent of their staff are PhDs with another 20% engineers. In addition to the employee base, the company has a stellar advisory board that includes individuals such as venture capitalists, former CEOs, former Google executives, and former civilian and military personnel from leading U.S. defense and national security organizations. These folks are extremely well connected and can help to open many doors for the company.

Jack Hidary provided a good overview of the company and its opportunities in a presentation at the Quantum World Congress last December. The video of that presentation has now been posted online and you can view it here.

February 25, 2023