Double-helix data storage developer Catalog gets funding boost

Spurred on by the development of its DNA storage Shannon system, Catalog has taken in $35 million in B-round funding to help devise a storage and computation system based on DNA.

The round was led by Hanwha Impact and the money will also help create an ecosystem of Catalog collaborators, partners, and users of DNA-based computing. Korea-based Hanwha Impact is the rebranded Hanwha General Chemical. DNA is a double-helix molecule present in the cells of all living organisms. It carries genetic instructions for the development, everyday functioning, and reproduction of cells — the base coding foundation for living creatures.

Hyunjun Park, Catalog’s founding CEO and an MIT researcher, said in a statement: “Simply preserving data in DNA is not our end goal. Catalog will fundamentally change the economics of data by enabling enterprises to analyse and generate business value securely from data that previously would have been thrown away or archived in cold storage. The possibility of a highly scalable, low energy, and potentially portable DNA computing platform is within our reach.”

Catalog’s head of molecular biology, Tracy Kambara, prepares Shannon, the first commercially viable automated DNA storage and computation platform for enterprise use. 

Catalog’s DNA storage technology involves creating quasi-letters which can represent binary data, and “writing” the resulting DNA sequences to fluid or dry pellets for later retrieval. Such stored DNA is orders of magnitude denser than flash or tape-based storage, air-gapped from online systems like tape, and can last for, it is claimed, thousands of years.

It is possible, Catalog says, to compute the data stored in DNA molecules. This concept is of a compute-in-storage product and its programming and other details have yet to be revealed. 

Catalog does say that, by incorporating DNA into algorithms and applications there could be “potential widespread commercial use through its proprietary data encoding scheme and novel approach to automation. Expected areas of early application are artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and secure computing. In addition, initial use cases are expected to include fraud detection in financial services, image processing for defect discovery in manufacturing, and digital signal processing in the energy sector.”

The firm says that its coming data and compute platform will be more energy efficient, affordably scalable, and highly secure compared to conventional electronic platforms.

Catalog was founded at Boston in 2016 and has taken in a total of $44.3 million according to our records. We think we’ll hear about more progress in 2022.