Quantum science is transforming the ways technology can lead to innovation in health by improving how doctors use tools to measure and determine a health diagnosis at an early stage before symptoms progress into long-term medical issues among patients.

“Quantum computing has a lot of real-world value in health, I am specifically interested in trying to use quantum devices such as sensors to measure these microscopic and nanoscopic properties in individual atoms and molecules,” says Connor Kapahi, a PhD student in Physics and Astronomy, who participated in this year’s Quantum for Health (Q4Health) Design Challenge led by Transformative Quantum Technologies (TQT).

quantum sensor devices“Applying quantum sensors to health care and giving practitioners better tools will dramatically improve a doctor’s ability to make a diagnosis and treat different health disorders.”

Kapahi and his team submitted their design idea of a new quantum technological device that may one day help prevent vision loss in older adults. Kapahi explains how macular degeneration is a retinal disorder and the leading cause of blindness among people over the age of 55-years-old. But while there are lot of treatments that are effective at slowing vision loss, there are currently no treatments that can reverse the effects once vision loss occurs.

The team’s cutting-edge design received the Gold Award along with $10K in funding to help further develop their research in a diagnostic tool which uses a structured state of light to create a pattern in a person's vision, a pattern that is only visible when the patient has a healthy macula. By developing a diagnostic tool that clinicians can add to their standard eye exam, doctors will then be able to detect macular degeneration in patients earlier on during routine visits and provide the specific treatment for patients with early-stage vision loss.

“It is great that our idea is getting recognition because research in general has a lot of ups and downs… really high-highs and really low-lows,” Kapahi says. “So, it is great to feel validated that the idea we have makes sense and that other people agree that this research is valuable and can work outside the lab.”

Kapahi and his team aim to use the $10K funding towards applying for a patent, while continuing to develop their research project into a startup to commercialize their diagnostic tool in the future. The team has already created a device that can only be used in a research environment and is currently being tested at the University of Waterloo.

figure showing plane wave and spin-orbit beam pointing towards a person's eye

“We spent the last few months testing the device on both healthy participants and participants with retinal disorders, and those early results are promising,” Kapahi says. “In the future, we hope to build a prototype of the diagnostic tool that can be used in clinical trials. In the meantime, we will continue testing patients with different retinal disorders. Hopefully, we can reach a point where this technology can be valuable to clinicians as part of their day-to-day practice.”

TQT held the Q4Health Design Challenge to search for new ways that quantum technologies can advance health. A total of eight teams of 29 Waterloo students, post-doctorates, faculty and staff submitted their design ideas proving how quantum technologies can improve healthcare by monitoring in both the near and long term.

“The Q4Health design challenge uncovered a broad array of applications where quantum technology can impact health, from improved detection of male infertility and diabetes to advancements in diagnostic tools used in pathology and eye health,” says Tracey Forrest, program director of TQT. “UWaterloo is an innovation leader, and this design challenge saw its multi-disciplinary strengths take centre stage with dozens of teams registering their interest from across campus leading to the formation of new collaborations and promising new research directions at the intersection of quantum and health. We are excited to see these teams push their ideas forward.”

Michael Reimer, a professor from the Faculty of Engineering, and his team received the Silver Award ($2.5K) for their design pitch in optical metamaterial single photon detectors to improve Raman spectroscopy for use in clinical pathology.

The following teams were awarded to help further develop their ideas:

Entangled Vision: Quantum Probes for Retinal Diagnostics, Gold

  • Connor Kapahi, Institute for Quantum Computing (PhD Student)
  • Dusan Sarenac, Institute for Quantum Computing (Researcher)
  • Dmitry Pushin, Faculty of Science (Professor)
  • Andrew Silva, Faculty of Science (Postdoctoral Fellow)

Optical metamaterial single photon detectors to improve Raman spectroscopy for use in clinical pathology, Silver

  • Michael Reimer, Faculty of Engineering (Professor)
  • Sarah Odinotski, Institute for Quantum Computing (Master's Student)
  • Sasan V. Grayli, Institute for Quantum Computing (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Jack deGooyer, Institute for Quantum Computing (Master's Student)
  • Sathursan Kokilathasan, Institute for Quantum Computing (Master's Student)
  • Lucas Roy, Institute for Quantum Computing (Master's Student)

Design and development of a real-time monitoring microfluidic platform for multiplexed diabetes biomarker detection, Honourable Mention

  • Hesam Abouali, Faculty of Engineering (PhD student)
  • Sanjana Srikant, Faculty of Engineering (Researcher)
  • Mahla Poudineh, Faculty of Engineering (Professor)

Detecting male infertility by merging electron spin resonance with computer assisted sperm analysis, Honourable Mention

  • Veronika Magdanz, Faculty of Engineering (Professor)
  • Fatemeh Fani Sani, Institute for Quantum Computing (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Peter Sprenger, Institute for Quantum Computing (Staff)
  • Aaron Lewis, Faculty of Engineering (Undergraduate Student)

At-home quantum measurement of urine QuLoo, Honourable Mention

  • Saba Sadeghi, Institute for Quantum Computing (Staff)
  • Peter Sprenger, Institute for Quantum Computing (Staff)
  • Dmitry Akhmetzyanov, Institute for Quantum Computing (Researcher)
  • Jiahui Chen, Institute for Quantum Computing (PhD Student)

Quantum tools for pathology, Honourable Mention

  • Dusan Sarenac, Institute for Quantum Computing (Researcher)
  • Jelena Mirkovic, Faculty of Science (Professor)
  • Dmitry Pushin, Faculty of Science (Professor)

The Q4Health design challenge was made possible by Quantum Valley Ideas Laboratory as the presenting sponsor, and Vanedge Capital as a sponsor. Visit the Transformative Quantum Technologies website to learn more about the Q4Health design challenge.