Microsoft Buying Ten Million Long Synthetic DNA for Digital Data Storage Research


Twist Bioscience, a San Francisco startup today announced that Microsoft has agreed to purchase ten million long oligonucleotides from Twist Bioscience to encode digital data. Their silicon-based DNA synthesis platform can accelerate the ability to write DNA at a cost enabling data storage.

“As our digital data continues to expand exponentially, we need new methods for long-term, secure data storage,” said Doug Carmean, a Microsoft partner architect within the company’s Technology and Research organization. “The initial test phase with Twist demonstrated that we could encode and recover 100 percent of the digital data from synthetic DNA. We’re still years away from a commercially- viable product, but our early tests with Twist demonstrate that in the future we’ll be able to substantially increase the density and durability of data storage.”

As the quantity of digital data is growing rapidly, the ability to store this data is not keeping pace. There is a need for a new storage medium that effectively and accurately stores data. Microsoft and University of Washington researchers are collaborating to use DNA as a high density, durable and easy-to-manipulate storage medium. Using DNA to archive data is an attractive possibility because it is extremely dense (up to about 1 exabyte per cubic millimeter) and durable (half-life of over 500 years).

Using DNA as an archival technology avoids two key limitations of traditional digital storage media: limited lifespan and low data density. DNA data storage could last up to 2,000 years without deterioration according to a recent presentation at the American Chemical Society. In addition, a single gram of DNA can store almost a one trillion gigabytes (almost a zettabyte) of digital data.

Read the full press release here.

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