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Western Switzerland Universities to bring DNA data storage out of the lab

Neuchâtel’s HE-Arc and the University of Geneva are working on DNA data storage solutions, aiming for centuries-long archiving with low-energy micro-factories.

The DNAMIC project represents a significant leap towards sustainable and long-term data preservation, leveraging the inherent longevity and compact nature of DNA.
The DNAMIC project represents a significant leap towards sustainable and long-term data preservation, leveraging the inherent longevity and compact nature of DNA.

Leading Western Switzerland Universities are paving the way in revolutionizing DNA data storage technologies. The project, helmed by HE-Arc and the University of Geneva, aims to develop autonomous micro-factories with low energy consumption capable of managing the entire complex process of DNA data storage. This advancement could enable organizations to preserve their archives for centuries.

The concept of storing data in DNA is not new, having been conceptualized in the 1960s. However, recent decades have seen accelerated progress in this field. In 2015, EPFZ discovered a method to prevent quality loss in DNA storage, and a year later, Microsoft successfully tested the encoding and complete recovery of data stored in DNA. Despite these advancements, a commercially viable solution remained distant until now.

October 2023 marked the official launch of the European project DNAMIC in Lithuania. Spearheaded by HE-Arc Engineering and the University of Geneva, DNAMIC (DNA microfactory for autonomous archiving) aims to transition DNA data storage from laboratory settings to practical, widespread application. This three-year project is focused on creating sustainable ways to store data for centuries without energy consumption.

Professor Jérôme Charmet from HE-Arc highlights the significance of this development: “Current storage systems will soon be unable to meet our growing digital data needs. Synthetic DNA is an excellent alternative.” The technology for DNA data storage has been in the works for over sixty years, but only now is its large-scale implementation becoming feasible.

The idea model to implement DNA data storage solutions

These future “archiving systems” will be based on modular micro-factories, currently being developed by HE-Arc and its partners within the MicroLean Lab. These factories consist of interconnected technological blocks that handle various stages of microtechnological component manufacturing, with applications in fields like watchmaking and medical technologies.

Applied to DNA storage, these micro-factories and their technological blocks will manage the entire process, from encoding and decoding to synthesis, storage, quality control, and sequencing. Once developed, they can be deployed in public administrations, businesses, universities, and cultural institutions to preserve their archives for centuries.

“The MicroLean Lab’s micro-factory is the ideal model to implement this DNA data storage solution,” stated Pierre-Yves Burgi, Deputy Director of the Information System department at the University of Geneva.

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