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IndieBio’s Catalog successfully encodes and searches eight Shakespearean tragedies in a single test tube of DNA
Hannah DeTavis
Catalog aims to store and compute massive amounts of digital data on a DNA-based platform. Source: Catalog

IndieBio’s DNA-based data storage company Catalog (IndieBio 04) recently announced that it has encoded eight of Shakespeare’s tragedies onto strands of searchable synthetic DNA stored in a test tube, and then successfully conducted text searches of the more than 200,000 words. The Boston Globe highlighted this feat in the article, “Boston startup can search Shakespeare’s plays in a test tube of DNA”

Catalog’s founders Hyunjun Park and Nathaniel Roquet first hatched the idea of DNA-based data storage at MIT, where their company took off with the help of IndieBio and the StartMIT program. (Roquet has since moved on from Catalog and is now the lead scientist at Cambridge-based Tessera Therapeutics.)

Catalog’s minivan-sized proprietary machine, “Shannon,” encodes data onto strands of DNA using technology not unlike an inkjet printer, The Boston Globe explained. Once the data is encoded onto a plastic film, the DNA strands are transferred into a liquid solution for computing and storage. The Boston Globe article noted that while electronic computers must move data from storage to memory and compute via a central processor, Catalog’s technology stores and computes data in a single test tube, accelerating the entire process and saving energy. 

“Consider a database that is also in DNA form, containing not genetic information, but digital information,” Park shared with The Boston Globe. “And you’re searching through that not for COVID sequences but a search phrase or a pattern that you’re looking for.”

The company told The Boston Globe that next year, it hopes to demonstrate a search through a DNA-encoded database of 100 million words.

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