Startup Catalog announced on Friday that it has managed to cram all of the text of Wikipedia’s English-language version on the same genetic molecules that human bodies use. The news comes at a time when computer storage technology is looking for ways to enhance storage capacities.
The feat has been accomplished by Catalog by using its first DNA writer. The machine can easily be placed inside your home if you get rid of your refrigerator, oven, and also some counter space. The feat won’t be helping you to replace your phone’s flash memory chips in the near future, but the company is sure that it can be used by the customers who want to archive their data.
DNA strands are tiny and quite tricky to handle. However, the biological molecules are capable of storing data other than genes that dictate how a cell would become a pea plant or a chimpanzee. Catalog relies on prefabricated synthetic DNA strands that are shorter than human DNA but increases their number, thus enabling itself to store more data.
Using DNA to store storage as opposed to the latest high-tech miniaturization may sound counterintuitive, but there are good enough reasons for opting for DNA; it is compact, chemically stable, and since it is the foundation of Earth’s biology; it won’t become obsolete. But who is in the market looking for such a kind of storage? Catalog has only announced one partner so far; the Arch Mission Foundation that is busy trying to store human knowledge on Earth and Mars. Catalog hasn’t declared if it will be charging for the DNA writing service or not.
The company has said in a statement, ‘We have discussions underway with government agencies, major international science projects that generate huge amounts of test data, major firms in oil and gas, media and entertainment, finance, and other industries.’ Catalog is based in Boston and has its own device for writing data at a speed of 4 megabits per second in the DNA. With optimizations, this rate can be tripled, thus allowing to record 125 gigabytes in a single day.
There are conventional DNA sequencing products already available in the biotechnology market that are capable of reading DNA data. Catalog said, ‘We think this whole new use case for sequencing technology will help [drive] down the cost quite a bit.’ Catalog was founded in 2016 by two MIT graduate students, Chief Executive Hyunjun Park and Chief Technology Innovation Officer Nathaniel Roquet.