Partnership looks to replace data centres with DNA storage

Cambridge Consultants is working with Catalog Technologies to develop a DNA storage solution that could potentially hold all the world’s digital data in a space the size of a wardrobe.

DNA storage

Catalog’s DNA-based data-storage method is claimed to overcome the dual bottlenecks of cost and speed that have so far hindered the progress of similar systems that encode digital data into strands of synthetic DNA.

These strands contain sequences of nucleotide bases represented by the letters A, C, G, and T. Data can be stored in the DNA by transposing binary code into the DNA and then synthesising strings of DNA molecules with that code, which is slow and costly.

Catalog’s solution involves the acquisition of small fragments of DNA and piecing them together in an exponential series of combinations.

Having proven their proprietary method for encoding data in DNA, Boston Massachusetts-based Catalog has engaged Cambridge Consultants to support the scaling up of their platform, designing and building a machine that will encode the data at a speed of 1Tb in 24 hours, an advance expected to make it economically viable to use DNA as the medium for long-term archival of data.

According to Cambridge Consultants, conventional mediums of storing data – hard drives in data centres, often accessed as cloud services – will no longer be capable of meeting current data storage needs by as early as 2025. Data centres also come with a large footprint and consume hundreds of megawatts of energy in maintaining their sensitive conditions, particularly for cooling. DNA storage can be safely stored at room temperature, is space efficient and has a lifespan of 1,000 years – compared to just a few years for hard drives – if kept in a cool and dry place. With no power requirements, there is no need for active cooling.

“Making DNA data storage commercially viable requires significant advances in scalability – it’s simply too slow and expensive to be used for business and government use cases as it stands today,” said Hyunjun Park, co-founder and CEO, Catalog Technologies. “The machine we are developing with Cambridge Consultants will bring DNA data storage out of the research lab and into the real world, for the first time in history.”

“We’re excited to be collaborating with Catalog on this fascinating project with world-changing potential”, said Richard Hammond, head of Synthetic Biology, Cambridge Consultants. “This project requires us to build a highly diverse team and draws on our long experience of delivering technically challenging projects. It also showcases our ability to unite biology and engineering to make radical new ideas a reality.”