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GenScript Jumps Into DNA Data Storage Market With New Synthesis Platform


OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Synthetic DNA maker GenScript has entered the market for DNA-based data storage with a new silicon chip for making oligos.

At the Built With Biology Conference, formerly known as SynbioBeta, GenScript Innovation Center VP Cedric Wu described the firm's new semiconductor technology, the High-Density DNA Synthesis Chip, which can synthesize approximately 8.4 million unique oligos up to 170 bases long.

The new platform for DNA data storage combines four chips and can synthesize 5.7 billion oligos in one run, Wu said.

"DNA could be a powerful medium for data storage given its theoretically limitless storage capacity, stability, and minimal maintenance requirements," he said in a statement. "However, our inability to quickly generate large numbers of DNA sequences to store new material has hindered its commercial promise. GenScript's semiconductor technology addresses digital DNA storage's most vexing challenges. It is turning fiction into reality."

GenScript, based in Piscataway, New Jersey, but listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, has research and production facilities in Nanjing, China, and operates in more than 100 countries. It joins several other companies with a presence at this conference who are pursuing synthetic DNA-based solutions for data storage.

Twist Bioscience has been public about its DNA data storage capabilities and announced a chip with 1 micrometer features in May 2021.

A functional 1 µm chip would enable a price of about $1,000 per gigabyte, former Cowen analyst Doug Schenkel wrote in a note to investors at the time of Twist's announcement. "The long-term goal of a 150 nm chip would enable data storage at about $100 per terabyte," he noted.

GenScript and Twist are joined by Microsoft; DNA Script, which offers an enzymatic synthesis chemistry in a benchtop system; and Catalog, a Boston-based startup that is working on a system that includes DNA-based computing.

Wu said the company sees a large and growing market. Cloud storage is estimated to be an approximately $90 billion industry now and could more than double by 2026. He estimated that long term, so-called "cold storage," which DNA could excel at, is estimated to be 60 percent of all data storage.

In an internal proof-of-concept study, GenScript researchers encoded nearly 100 Mb of data in common file formats such as PDFs, jpeg images, and plaintext. They converted the data to DNA and then back to the original formats, retrieving "100 percent of the encoded data with no loss," he said.

The chips are recyclable and can be used more than 10 times.

In addition to DNA digital data storage, GenScript will use the High-Density DNA Synthesis Chip platform to make oligos for applications such as targeted enrichment sequencing, precision antibody and enzyme libraries, spatial genomics, and digital microfluidics.

GenScript expects the new chips to be fully commercially available in the second half of 2022.

The firm is also developing the next-generation technology, with features 3 micrometers in diameter, which Wu said could allow it "to store a terabyte of data at less than $100."