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DNA Storage Start-Up Gains €5M in Seed Funds

DNAmolecule model

(Skeeze, Pixabay)

28 Nov. 2022. A new company developing DNA as a data storage medium with sustainable processes is raising €5 million ($US 5.22 million) in seed funding. Biomemory, in Paris, is a spin-off biotechnology enterprise from the Sorbonne, based on research in synthetic biology at the university’s labs.

Biomemory, which was formed last year, seeks to solve the continuing problem of mass data storage needed with rapid advances in information technology. Recent developments in IT, such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, cloud computing, and Internet of things are straining today’s data storage facilities, with growing needs for more data centers. But limited physical space and high energy demands are making construction of new data centers more difficult and dangerous to the environment.

The company says its process based on deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA can store digital data at 1 million times the density of magnetic tape, optical media, or flash memory drives — storage media used most often today. Biomemory notes that DNA found in fossilized remains of ancient extinct animal species is still readable with today’s sequencing tools, indicating the durability of DNA as a long-term storage medium. And the company adds DNA will still be around long after other data storage methods are made obsolete, an indicator of its reliability as a storage medium.

Data stored in DNA plasmids

Biomemory says its technology uses biomass, plant-based organisms as its raw material, with lower energy use and and costs of production. The company’s co-founder and chief scientist is Stéphane Lemaire, who leads the Sorbonne’s synthetic and systems biology of microalgae group. Lemaire and colleagues describe the Biomemory technology for DNA storage drives in a pre-publication manuscript, not yet peer-reviewed, posted in Aug. 2022 on the bioRxiv pre-print server. The authors say its process improves on earlier methods of coding digital data with chemically synthesized short DNA strands. While those techniques validate the feasibility of DNA data storage, say the authors, the process itself is expensive and lower in data density.

Lemaire and colleagues say their DNA data drives uses longer strands of DNA that are more easily replicated. The technology encodes and stores digital data in DNA plasmids, circular DNA molecules found in bacteria and other microorganisms. Those DNA data plasmids are stored in genetically modified bacteria, with plasmids then extracted and sequenced for data retrieval. The authors say an algorithm called Random In-Silico Evolution or RISE makes possible encoding of digital data into DNA, and subsequent decoding and decompression of DNA into a digital data stream. The paper also describes techniques for organizing DNA data into arrays, tracks, and sectors commonly used in today’s data storage processes.

Biomemory is raising €5 million in its seed funding round led by life sciences investor eureKare SA in Luxembourg that supports start-ups working in synthetic biology, and the French Tech Seed Fund. Joining the round are Paris Business Angels, Prunay Impact, and unnamed existing investors. “With close to 30 zettabytes generated annually,” says Alexandre Mouradian, CEO of eureKare in a company statement released through Globe Newswire, “it is clear that data storage is a major challenge for our generation, and the market demand for data storage solutions is growing fast.” One zettabyte equals 1 billion terabytes.

Biomemory says it plans to apply the proceeds to developing an integrated and continuous microfluidic process with miniaturization and automation that sharply lowers the cost of DNA data storage.

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