Technology alliance boosts efforts to store data in DNA

By | April 22, 2021

According to market-analysis firm IDC, the digital universe can add some 175 jetbytes per year by 2025. Followed by 175 with 21 zeros. Large-scale data centers and vast energy resources will be needed to maintain the amount of information. A small but growing group of researchers advocates DNA as a permanent, stable replacement.

These efforts received a lift last November, when a coalition of computing and biotech firms including Microsoft, Twist Bioscience, Illumina and Western Digital announced that they were forming the DNA Data Storage Alliance (DDSA).

The alliance hopes to “organize the industry and think about building an entire ecosystem for DNA data storage”, says Xavier Gordon, chief technology officer at DNA Script, a Paris-based developer and member of the bench-top DNA synthesizer Huh. The treaty.

DDSA was formed in response to the “critical mass and community” that surrounds the technology, which until recently was largely theoretical, says Karin Strauss, a Microsoft researcher in Redmond, Washington. “It looked like science fiction five years ago. It’s really starting to happen, “she says.

The process of DNA data storage combines DNA synthesis, DNA sequencing, and an encoding and decoding algorithm to pack information into DNA traditionally more durable and at higher densities. It can be up to 1 per 17 exbiots.

In a demonstration of technology last October, geneticist George Church and his team at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, showed a way to encode a snippet of music from the video game Super Mario Bros., which is the same type of genetic Occurs between runs of genetic bases. , And then recover it and run it back on Computer 2.

Olgica Milenkovic and her team at the University of Illinois at Ulbana-Champagne have developed a strategy DNA punch card ‘strategy that encodes data in nodes formed in the DNA backbone; He used the technique to store a copy of the Gatesburg address of former US President Abraham Lincoln and an image of the Lincoln Memorial 3.

And Robert Grass and his team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have devised a strategy for embedding digital genetic information – an object instruction for 3D printing, for example – into the object itself, an approach they call ” DNA-of-things “. “४.

The low-hanging fruit for DNA data storage is what Emily Leprost, chief executive of Twist Bioscience in San Francisco, California, calls ‘cold data’ – data that is written once and rarely read. Because DNA remains stable over long periods of time, data access – through sequencing and data analysis – is slow.

DNA has already proven itself for big data work, even if not in peer reviewed publications. Another coalition member, a DNA-storage firm Catalog in Boston, Massachusetts, announced in 2019 that it had placed all of the English-language Wikipedia’s genetic material in place using its DNA-writing technology. And last year, Twist announced that it had archived an episode of the Netflix series Biohackers.

Others see wider opportunities, and the Church, for one, encourages researchers to think outside the box. Imagine fruit flies that can video-record everything that appears in their DNA, or human tissue capable of storing physiological data. “If you have a new revolution, it is usually wrong to try to apply it to thinking the old way,” he says.

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