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Catalog, a Boston-based Massachusetts company that develops what it claims is the world’s first DNA computer, announced today that it raised $ 35 million in a Series B funding round led by Hanwha Impact Partners. The company says it plans to use the capital to launch its chemically based computer platform by next year, where data handling and computing will be done by manipulating synthetic DNA.
As conversations continue about the electricity that traditional computing requires to process large amounts of data, interest in chemically based DNA computer systems is gaining momentum. While DNA computers tend to have slow processing speeds and produce responses that can be difficult to analyze, they can do a large amount of parallel calculations due to millions to billions of molecules inside that interact with each other simultaneously.
“DNA-based computing means everything happens on a chemical level, where traditional boundaries between storage, memory and computation are blurred and often non-existent. This allows for levels of parallelism that were previously unthinkable, while using far less energy than previously possible, ”Catalog co-founder and CEO Hyunjun Park told VentureBeat via email.
DNA computing is a new branch of data processing that utilizes DNA, biochemistry and molecular hardware instead of traditional electronics. Leonard Adleman of the University of Southern California kickstarted the field in 1994 when he demonstrated a proof-of-concept use of DNA as a form of computer hardware. In 1995, the idea for DNA-based memory arose by Eric Baum, who assumed that a huge amount of data could be stored in a small amount of DNA due to its ultra-high density.
Traditional computers use a series of logic gates – which usually consist of transistors – that convert various data inputs to output. But with DNA, molecules can be triggered to bind together to create a circuit of logic gates in test tubes.
Catalog was founded in 2016 by two MIT researchers with the goal of developing a commercially viable product for DNA-based storage, which Park claims is up to 1 million times closer than today’s current storage technologies. In the past year’s work with companies in the fields of IT, media and entertainment and energy, Catalogue’s researchers developed an automated system for DNA storage, which they claim is the first that is not limited to wet laboratory chemistry.
A hard drive’s typical storage ratio is approximately 30 million gigabytes per second. Cubic meters. The catalog method can store 600 billion gigabytes in the same volume. The company developed a coding scheme and a combinatorial approach that allows for what it claims are “dramatic” cost reductions and throughput, making DNA-based storage and computation economically viable.
The potential applications of DNA computers span security, cryptography, memories, disks, and robotics. Researchers have also shown at an early stage how DNA computers can be used for extremely accurate detection of certain cancers.
“Catalog has discovered a broad applicability of our platform across industry sectors as well as almost universal demand for what DNA-based computing promises among heavy data users,” Park added. “Early [use cases] which we are able to talk about at the moment include digital signal processing, such as seismic processing in the energy sector and comparisons of databases such as fraud protection and identity management in the financial industry. ”
Gartner predicted in a recent report that by 2024, 30% of digital businesses will have a mandate for DNA storage trials – addressing the exponential growth of data that will overwhelm existing storage technologies. “Technologies are stretching to their limits,” said Gartner VP analyst Daryl Plummer, lead author of the research, during a recent presentation at the virtual Gartner IT Symposium / Xpo 2020. “Non-traditional approaches will enable the next rebound of innovation and efficiency. All human knowledge could be stored in a small amount of synthetic DNA. ”
Of course, Catalog is not the only team researching DNA computer technologies. A partnership between IBM and Caltech was established in 2009 with the aim of putting “DNA chips” into production, and a California Institute of Technology group is working on manufacturing nucleic acid-based integrated circuits that can compute entire square roots. In addition to this, Microsoft, Twist Bioscience, Illumina and Western Digital last year formed the DNA Storage Alliance, of which Catalog is also a part.
But Park believes Catalog is well positioned to compete in the burgeoning market. To date, the 20-person company has raised more than $ 45 million in venture capital from backers, including Horizon Ventures and Airbus Ventures.
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