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DNA Data Storage Alliance to Work on Interoperability, Industry Roadmap

NEW YORK – Twist Bioscience, Illumina, and Western Digital said on Thursday that they are teaming up with Microsoft to lead the charge to establish standards for the nascent DNA data storage field.

Under a new alliance, the four founding members and their partners plan to help achieve interoperability and lay the groundwork for a commercial archival data storage ecosystem. "In addition to developing an industry roadmap, the DNA Data Storage Alliance plans to develop use cases in various markets and industries as well as promote and educate the larger storage community to promote adoption of this future solution," they wrote.

Several computing hardware and software companies, molecular biology-driven startups, and academic labs have joined the effort, including Imec, Catalog, Molecular Assemblies, DNA Script, the University of Washington Molecular Information Systems Lab, and Ansa Biotechnologies.

"DNA is an incredible molecule that, by its very nature, provides ultra-high-density storage for thousands of years," Twist CEO and Cofounder Emily Leproust said in a statement. "By joining with other technology leaders to develop a common framework for commercial implementation, we drive a shared vision to build this new market solution for digital storage."

DNA data storage has picked up steam over the last year. Twist, Microsoft, Catalog, and DNA Script have all publicly touted their work in the field, and in January, the Intelligence Advance Research Projects Activity committed $48 million in grants to fund two public-private partnerships featuring several alliance members.

This year, Catalog also raised $10 million in Series A financing, DNA Script raised $89 million in Series B financing, and Ansa raised $7.98 million in seed funding.

Microsoft's Karin Strauss said that in collaboration with the University of Washington, the firm has "demonstrated a fully automated end-to-end system capable of storing and retrieving data from DNA." Separately, Microsoft has stored 1 GB of data in DNA synthesized by Twist and subsequently recovered the information.

"A key component of a DNA data storage system is its ability to read back the digital information when needed," Illumina CTO Alex Aravanis said in a statement. "We believe Illumina's innovative sequencing technology will be critical in enabling this market at commercial scale and look forward to collaborating with other leaders in their respective fields to make this a viable, long-term solution for archival storage."

The Claude Nobs Foundation, EPFL Lausanne, ETH Zurich, and Iridia round out the initial membership roster. The alliance said in a statement that it welcomes additional participants.