- Twist BioScience announced this week that Microsoft is buying its synthetic DNA to study it as a medium for digital data storage due to DNA's shelf life of several thousand years and high data density.
- The deal involves Microsoft purchasing 10 million long oligonucleotides, DNA strands frequently used in research and genetic testing, for an undisclosed sum.
- Microsoft aims to find out how much digital data can fit on the strands and be accurately retrieved using regular DNA sequencing technology.
While the companies aren't suggesting what kind of data needs to last up to 2,000 years, they argue technology for data storage is not currently keeping pace with the quantity of data being produced, which is doubling about every two years. Some experts estimate DNA may be able to hold one exabyte — equivalent to one quintillion bytes — of data, the San Francisco Business Times reports.
A Microsoft pilot test in 2015 already resulted in the recovery of digital data from Twist's synthetic DNA. Although the process is years from commercial viability due to the cost, some of that is projected to be on its way down.
Microsoft and the University of Washington recently released a paper suggesting the progress on encoding and recovering data from DNA is occurring alongside dramatic declines in the cost of DNA synthesis and sequencing.
"The volume of data that can be synthesized today is limited mostly by the cost of synthesis and sequencing, but growth in the biotechnology industry portends orders of magnitude cost reductions and efficiency improvements," the researchers say.