Many moons in the past, famed enterprise capitalist Marc Andreessen described the time period “product-market match” as “being in market with a product that may fulfill that market.” To show that you’ve product-market match, simply promote a significant quantity of your product and repair to finish clients – no subsidies, no free trials counted as revenues, no grants, and no associated celebration revenues. Every time an thrilling new know-how guarantees the moon, we at all times need to see product-market match earlier than investing. We don’t put money into tales, we put money into traction. That’s why when Twist Biosciences (TWST) guarantees their buyers that DNA knowledge storage is across the nook, we wished to take a better take a look at the thesis.
DNA Knowledge Storage Defined
All knowledge is made up of 1s and 0s. All DNA is made up of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs. Put that method, it will make sense that if the 1s and 0s could be transformed to ATCGs, then knowledge may very well be saved on strands of DNA. So, is it doable? Sure. Nonetheless, it’s not precisely that easy.
To retailer knowledge on DNA, the specified data first must be mapped onto the 4 nucleotides (the As, Ts, Cs, and Gs) of DNA. That is finished utilizing a DNA synthesizer. Whereas this synthesizer may not assist Paul McCartney create a pop Christmas hit, it’s completely important to the information conversion course of. Its main objective is to affix nucleotides in a selected order to construct DNA molecules. Briefly, it creates a “synthesized” strand of DNA. The nucleotides are chemically modified to permit them to suit snugly and simply onto the DNA chain. As soon as that is full, the DNA could be “purified” (separated from different mobile elements) making it prepared for knowledge storage. That is the place firms like Twist Bioscience slot in. Twist specializes within the DNA synthesis course of, serving to to make DNA storage a actuality.
Some Key Rivals
Whereas a number of firms are actively making strides within the DNA knowledge cupboard space, Twist Bioscience boasts the power to retailer as much as 215 petabytes of knowledge in a single gram of DNA. For perspective, a single petabyte may retailer over 13 years of HD video footage. This implies Twist may retailer 28 centuries of HD video in a single gram of DNA. The newest from the corporate is that they’re engaged on a Proof of Idea (POC) ship and a tool that enables knowledge to be written to DNA.
Early entry is predicted to occur earlier than the top of this yr, although it’s unclear how mature the product providing will likely be by then.
Based in 2016, Catalog Applied sciences boasts buyers similar to Baidu, a Chinese language know-how conglomerate, and Horizons Ventures, a Hong Kong-based VC agency specializing in disruptive know-how startups. Catalog secured $35 million in Collection B funding in late 2021, bringing their whole funding to $55 million. Whereas their platform “solely” has the capability to retailer one terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) of knowledge per gram of DNA, Catalog’s benefit is that they’ve constructed a extremely scalable and safe platform for knowledge storage. Primarily, they’re taking a distinct method in specializing in practicality versus capability. They haven’t introduced a timeline for industrial availability of their DNA knowledge storage providing and their web site doesn’t provide an excessive amount of confidence, claiming “the concept of storing data utilizing DNA has been round for some time. It’s simply that the price of DNA synthesis has been a bottle neck.”
Shocked to see this one on the record? We’re too. Nonetheless, Microsoft can be on the forefront of the DNA knowledge storage business, with a purpose of creating it extra sensible and accessible for a variety of customers and functions. Their major contribution to the sphere is the event of a completely automated system for DNA synthesis and coding, in partnership with Twist and Illumina amongst others. Dubbed the DNA Synthesis Platform (no creativity factors right here), it may encode massive quantities of knowledge in a single run. Microsoft can be creating a specialised algorithm for encoding and decoding DNA knowledge, which follows a linear course of detailed beneath.
Whereas these firms discuss progress being made in the direction of commercialization, one firm claims to have already achieved commercialization.
In April of final yr, world biotechnology group GenScript (1548.HK) introduced the “first industrial platform for DNA digital knowledge storage” which was validated by researchers who encoded “100 Mb of blended knowledge sorts within the DNA to check the Excessive-Density DNA Synthesis Chip’s storage utility and retrieved 100% of the encoded knowledge with no loss.” The press launch saying the product providing mentioned that it will be “absolutely commercially obtainable within the second half of 2022” and that they’re “actively searching for contributors for a partnership program to broaden the applicability of the information storage platform.” No point out was fabricated from whether or not this resolution can compete on price. If it may’t, then it’s onerous to see why anybody would need to interact with their partnership program.
Competing on Price
DNA knowledge storage isn’t addressing a blue ocean whole addressable market (TAM). It must displace current options, specifically magnetic tape storage, which is among the oldest applied sciences obtainable for digital knowledge storage. Whereas different storage applied sciences like solid-state drives have gotten common for main storage and knowledge processing, many organizations proceed to make use of tape storage merchandise as half of a bigger knowledge administration technique.
Magnetic tapes have been offering a high-capacity, low-cost resolution for archival knowledge storage since computer systems had been first invented. The primary magnetic tape storage system was invented within the late Nineteen Forties by Jack Mullin, an engineer from Santa Clara College, after observing the Nazi radio broadcasts of World Battle II and realizing they’d a tool able to recording and reproducing sound. As a profitable electrical engineer, Mullin acknowledged the potential of this know-how and used it to create the muse of the magnetic tape storage we use to at the present time.
An article by Community World talks about why tape storage isn’t lifeless citing price as a main issue.
Tape lets you separate the medium from the recording gadget, which lets you purchase a handful of tape drives and hundreds of tapes. These hundreds of tapes additionally don’t want energy and cooling to keep up their knowledge. In reality, some have recommended that even when disk was free it will nonetheless price greater than tape because of the energy and cooling financial savings alone.
Credit score: Community World
That final sentence is a really highly effective one, and it must also apply to DNA knowledge storage which doesn’t want energy or cooling both (so we presume). Moreover, many don’t understand that tapes even have decrease error charges when writing knowledge than another recording medium. “Tape is 1000X higher at writing ones and zeros than one of the best disk drive,” says the article, and 10X higher than solid-state drives. However with regards to retrieval, the velocity of discs simply can’t be beat.
Tapes proceed to be the dominant resolution for secondary storage use instances the place knowledge must be held for lengthy durations of time for as cheaply as doable. The article cites leisure and biotech as two industries which can be shopping for large tape libraries and filling them with hundreds of tapes. This meshes effectively with the clientele Twist Bioscience appears to be focusing on with their providing.
Alternatives for Disruption
So, what’s the benefit of utilizing DNA for knowledge storage? Whereas tape storage is the present normal for archival knowledge storage, it’s not with out its weaknesses. Catalog Applied sciences factors out that standard storage media “should not have the longevity, knowledge density, or price effectivity to fulfill the worldwide demand.” Since magnetic tape can solely keep intact for 30 years, below optimum circumstances, DNA has potential to disrupt it within the archival storage market, because the excessive density and lengthy lifespan of DNA makes it optimum for this objective.
Moreover, retrieval velocity is a matter for tape storage. Tape drives have slower learn and write speeds than different storage gadgets, with high-end speeds of solely a number of hundred megabytes (MB) per second. Retrieval occasions may be affected by exterior components similar to together with community bandwidth, knowledge compression, and the general complexity of the information being retrieved. This makes tape ideally suited just for knowledge that doesn’t require frequent entry or pressing retrieval, similar to archiving. Within the high-performance computing market, the place the power to retailer and retrieve massive quantities of knowledge effectively is essential, DNA might be able to get a leg up if it may discover a technique to shorten its retrieval course of, however at what price? DNA knowledge storage must compete with tapes on price, then with conventional onerous discs on velocity. Given GenScript is speaking about researchers storing and retrieving 100 megabytes efficiently, simply how distant are we from scalable economically viable DNA knowledge storage options? Or is that this only a cool know-how resolution searching for an issue to resolve?
It’s About TAM Time
Calculating TAM for DNA knowledge storage could be discovered by calculating the dimensions of the promote it’s trying to disrupt, beginning with the archival knowledge market. Twist claims archival knowledge storage is a $35 billion market, nonetheless, the worldwide tape storage market was estimated at $4.3 billion in 2019, and based on Allied Market Analysis, is simply anticipated to achieve $9.4 billion by 2030. If Twist expects to disrupt solid-state and onerous disc drives, perhaps they need to begin with the low-hanging fruit. Apparent bottlenecks embrace price, velocity, and complexity. If DNA storage fails to change into aggressive with tape storage, there will likely be just about no TAM as a result of nobody in his proper thoughts would spend extra money to retailer knowledge in a extra advanced method. Whole price of possession wants to incorporate:
The price of writing the information to a DNA storage medium (must be intuitively costly)
The price of storing the DNA storage medium (must be zero)
The price of studying the information (isn’t this simply the price of sequencing)?
Lately, it prices $600 to sequence a whole genome which incorporates round 200 gigabytes of knowledge or about $3 per gig. As we speak, magnetic tape know-how affords the bottom buy value of uncooked storage capability at round two cents per gigabyte, says Forbes. Positive, these are tough numbers, however we’re not satisfied DNA knowledge storage may even come near competing on price anytime quickly. A key part of the whole course of, the DNA knowledge author, will likely be critically vital in figuring out how price efficient the whole course of will likely be, and Twist expects to permit early entry to this product providing later this yr.
Analysts ought to press the corporate relating to how distant these pilot merchandise are from being price aggressive. DNA knowledge storage is simply a portion of Twist’s choices, however they tout it of their investor decks as the subsequent greatest factor. The one method we’ll know they’ve developed an economically viable product is when the revenues begin to pour in.
On one hand, GenScript claims to have a commercially obtainable product for DNA storage. Alternatively, they discuss the necessity to discover companions to advance their know-how. If it’s economically viable, companions must be discovering them. Having the ability to retailer knowledge on DNA may make for an incredible celebration trick, however we’re not satisfied that it’s an economically viable resolution that may exchange tape drives which appear to be managing simply high-quality. Till these firms begin offering velocity and price metrics that show they’ll compete with conventional knowledge storage strategies, we’re not satisfied they’ve constructed something that’s economically viable for knowledge storage wants.
Tech investing is extraordinarily dangerous. Decrease your danger with our inventory analysis, funding instruments, and portfolios, and discover out which tech shares it is best to keep away from. Grow to be a Nanalyze Premium member and discover out immediately!