Microsoft Purchases Synthetic DNA for Encoding Digital Data from Twist Bioscience


Twist Bioscience announced today that Microsoft Corp. will purchase ten million long oligonucleotides to store digital data.

High-quality, quick DNA synthesis to facilitate innovation and progress in science is the aim of Twist Bioscience. Their private semiconductor-based process for making synthetic DNA, harnessing the power of scale, has a 10,000-well silicon platform. It can create genes, oligonucleotide pools, and variant libraries.

Every two years, digital data doubles. The ability to store it is not keeping up the pace.

“As our digital data continues to expand exponentially, we need new methods for long-term, secure data storage,” said Doug Carmean, a Microsoft partner architect within the company’s Technology and Research organization.

Most digital data is kept on media with a limited shelf life and so it has to be re-coded periodically.

“DNA is a promising storage media, as it has a known shelf life of several thousand years, offers a permanent storage format and can be read for continuously decreasing costs,” said Emily M. Leproust, Ph.D., CEO of Twist Bioscience.


Combining affordable DNA sequencing with the scalable silicon-based DNA synthesis platform of Twist Bioscience, DNA presents a viable option for data storage. DNA overcomes two important drawbacks of traditional data storage: limited lifespan and low density. A recent presentation at the American Chemical Society said that DNA data storage could last up to 2,000 years, and just one gram can storage one trillion gigabytes of data.

Twist Bioscience uses silicon instead of 96-well plates to make DNA, which is more efficient than current DNA production. This enables cheap, fast, high-quality production of synthetic genes, which then allows speedier design, build, test cycles. The technique has applications in a variety of fields including personalized medicines, pharmaceuticals, sustainable chemical production, agriculture production, diagnostics, biodetection and data storage.

In the test phase, Twist Bioscience showed that 100 percent of the digital data on synthetic DNA could be encoded and recovered. While the company is years from a commercially viable product, these tests suggest a future of denser, more durable data storage.

Twist Bioscience is delighted by the new collaboration with Microsoft, as Leproust expressed, “We are thrilled to work with Microsoft, and University of Washington researchers, to address the growing challenge of digital data storage.”

Learn more about Microsoft Research’s DNA-based archival storage system here

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(Originally posted by SynBioBeta, April 27, 2016)

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