The 144 words of Robert Frost’s seminal poem “The Road Not Taken” fit neatly onto a single printed page or a 1 kilobyte data file. Or in Hyunjun Park’s hands, a few drops of water in the bottom of a pink Eppendorf tube. Well, really what’s inside the water: invisible floating strands of DNA.
Scientists have long touted DNA’s potential as an ideal storage medium; it’s dense, it’s easy to replicate, it’s stable over millennia. And in the last few years they’ve managed to encode all kinds of things in those strings of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs: War and Peace, Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” a galloping horse GIF. But in order to replace existing silicon chip or magnetic tape storage technologies, DNA is going to have to get a lot cheaper to predictably read, write, and package.
That’s where scientists like Park come in. He and the other co-founders of Catalog, an MIT DNA storage spinoff emerging [...]