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DNA Storage Tech Developer Catalog Raises $35M For DNA-Based Compute

‘We can create collections of molecules and probes. The molecules can be manufactured in mass so someone can create a chemical instruction which, unlike classic electronic instructions, can achieve scales of parallelism not possible today. Parallel computing today requires multiple self-contained conventional servers. With DNA, on a molecule level, you can have millions and billions of layers of parallelism,’ says David Turek, Catalog’s chief technology officer.

Catalog, an early developer of DNA-based digital data storage, Thursday closed a $35-million round of funding the company plans to use to develop a compute platform based on its technology.

The new Series B round brings total funding in Catalog to $60 million, said David Turek, chief technology officer of the Boston, Mass.-based company.

Catalog has not developed an actual device yet based on its DNA storage technology, Turek told CRN.

[Related: Catalog Raises $10M To Bring DNA-Based Data Storage To Market]

The company closed a $10-million round of funding last fall and at the time showed how its technology could write the entire English language version of Wikipedia, which amounted to about 16 GBs of data, onto a tube about 1.5 inches long and 0.25 inches wide. The data is written on synthetic DNA with a modified inkjet printer head and read chemically.

The newest funding round aims to go beyond merely storing data to include the ability to do compute within the data, Turek said.

“We can create collections of molecules and probes,” he said. ”The molecules can be manufactured in mass so someone can create a chemical instruction which, unlike classic electronic instructions, can achieve scales of parallelism not possible today. Parallel computing today requires multiple self-contained conventional servers. With DNA, on a molecule level, you can have millions and billions of layers of parallelism.”

Turek said synthetic DNA-based computing will not aim to replace all conventional computing, similar to how today‘s quantum computing technology will not replace conventional computing.

“People see it as deploying with conventional computing,” he said. ”But unlike quantum computing, where the technology only impacts specific applications, DNA computing will work with a broad universe of applications that are accessible to parallelism.”

Commercialization of the technology is still 30 to 36 months away, Turek said.

Catalog plans to develop synthetic DNA-based storage and archiving first, with an aim to be offered in a storage-as-a-service model over the Internet, he said. Computation-as-service will probably be available a few months later, he said.

“In 2022, we expect to demonstrate the first ‘non-toy’ applications using DNA compute,” he said. ”We will also, over the next few months, look at the first application of the technology, such as seismic computing,” he said.

Following that, Catalog also plans to develop the ability to search synthetic DNA-based data in such a way that it doesn‘t change the data, he said.

Synthetic DNA-based storage and computing, while considerably slower in performance terms than classic electronic computing technology, offers several advantages that will become apparent, Turek said.

Security is a key advantage, he said.

“The data environment should be substantially more secure,” he said. ”Data is being created by a chemical process and not on electronic media. So data should be pretty opaque to attacks that affect electronic media.”

Storage density with DNA is a million times or more dense when compared to electronic media Turek said.

DNA storage and compute also does away with planned obsolescence as data stored on synthetic DNA does away with the idea of data storage devices eventually being thrown away as the manufacturers no longer support it or provide updates, he said.

“DNA has existed for billions of years and will exist for billions of years more,” he said. ”So data created today can be read 1,000 years later. The device may change, but the DNA will not change.”

The lead investor in Catalog is Korea-based Hanwha Impact Partners, formerly known as Hanwha Chemical. Turek said that company is looking at ways to present chemistry in unique ways.

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