CATALOG, which was founded in 2016 by MIT researchers, pitches itself as “building the world’s first DNA-based platform for massive digital data storage and computation.” Now, CATALOG has announced a partnership with storage stalwart Seagate on a series of initiatives aimed at advancing DNA-powered technologies.
The storage part of CATALOG’s pitch is likely familiar to HPCwire readers — the concept of DNA storage dates back decades (as does our coverage of its development). The gist, in short: storing data with millions of times greater efficiency via DNA’s four nucleotides (A, T, G and C), an innovation impeded by encoding and decoding difficulties (in terms of both error rate and speed). The computational element, however, is more avant-garde, and involves the solution (or partial solution) of mathematical problems or operations in the DNA itself, lessening the need to decode the massive amounts of data stored in the DNA.
The partnership with Seagate revolves around the storage company’s so-called “lab on a chip” technology. Through Seagate’s “lab on a chip,” droplets of synthetic DNA are split into dozens of tiny reservoirs, where they undergo chemical reactions that help to enable functions like search and machine learning on the stored data.
“Collaborating with an industry leader like Seagate will help speed our ability to advance DNA storage,” said Hyunjun Park, founding CEO of CATALOG. “In addition to DNA storage, CATALOG has already discovered the means to incorporate DNA into algorithms and applications with potential widespread cases including artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and secure computing. This work with Seagate is essential to eventually lowering costs and reducing the complexity of storage systems.”
CATALOG says that Seagate’s tech will allow them to “test [DNA] chemistry at significantly smaller levels,” part of a drive to make their DNA-based platforms up to 1000× smaller. This is an understandable ambition — CATALOG’s first-gen, proof-of-concept platform for DNA computation and storage is, the company says, around the size of a kitchen.
“We are excited to collaborate with CATALOG,” said Ed Gage, VP of Seagate Research. “Their leadership in DNA-based storage and compute, combined with Seagate’s long history of bringing innovative storage solutions to market, has the potential to accelerate the development and deployment of DNA-based solutions to address the challenges of the rapidly expanding datasphere.”
Just under a year ago, CATALOG secured $35 million in Series B funding in a round led by Hanwha Impact. Other teams, meanwhile, remain hard at work on removing the roadblocks to scalable DNA storage: researchers from the Georgia Tech Research Institute have been developing a microchip to cheaply synthesize DNA strands, for instance, while researchers at the University of Texas at Austin improved the reliability of DNA-stored data under high temperatures and humidity.