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DNA Storage Company Gains $24M in New Funds

DNA analysis graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

16 Mar. 2021. A maker of high-density chip devices storing data with nucleic acids similar to DNA is raising $24 million in its second venture financing round. Iridia Inc., a five year-old company in Carlsbad, California, aims to provide a stable, commercial long-term solution for the world’s exploding data storage needs.

Advances in informatics, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, and autonomous vehicles, are expected to create massive data volumes that stretch current data storage facilities, such as data centers, beyond their limits. These demands are creating a need for ever-larger physical plants, higher power consumption, and much higher costs, but building more of these large and expensive facilities is becoming increasingly unfeasible and not sustainable. In addition, Iridia cites estimates of 20 zettabytes of data — 1 zettabyte equals 1 billion terabytes — are currently lost each year due to limitations in today’s data storage technologies.

Nucleic acids like DNA, says Iridia, offer a desirable medium for storing data. Instead of coding data as 0s and 1s as in digital media, DNA codes data in the four bases found in DNA molecules: adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, or A – C – G – T, with data stored in short, synthetic DNA segments. Moreover, DNA is a highly compact storage medium, with one human cell holding some 24 gigabits of information, according to the company.

Data read directly from DNA in chips

Iridia’s technology incorporates DNA with enzymes into a polymer material for fabrication as chip devices. The company says it’s developing nanoscale switches in a parallel format that allow for very high density data storage. In addition, says Iridia, data can be read directly from its chips as digital 1s and 0s, eliminating the need for separate genetic sequencing to read and interpret the DNA code. The company believes with this technology it can reduce the cost of storing 1 terabyte of data in DNA from more than $1 million currently to less than $1.00.

“The potential of DNA as a viable data storage medium is rapidly gaining acceptance,” says Iridia’s chairman Jay Flatley in a company statement released through Globe Newswire. “Prior to Iridia, there was no realistic way to harness that potential in commercially competitive products.”

Iridia’s second venture funding round is raising $24 million led by LifeSci Venture Partners, a life science and health care investor in New York. Taking part in the round are Western Digital Capital, JSR Corporation, North Sound Ventures, the Pritzker Vlock Family Office, Longley Capital, Validus Growth Investors, ATEM Capital, Tech Coast Angels, and other individual investors. According to Crunchbase, Iridia raised $10.1 million in earlier venture financing.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in November 2020, Iridia is taking part in an industry-wide DNA Data Storage Alliance to advance DNA as a data storage medium. Western Digital, one of the leaders of that coalition, is an Iridia investor. Steffen Hellmold, vice president for corporate strategic initiatives at Western Digital notes that Iridia’s “technology holds promise to disrupt archival storage, given its ultra-high density and low total cost of ownership, and we anticipate seeing innovation at an order of magnitude every year in this field.”

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