You’re going to be in the Cloud alright, your DNA bits, memorialized

But Wait Already!

It’s not time to go yet! Soon maybe, but while you’re here and prepping for the ‘big beyond’ or ‘long thereafter’, the $1000 genome sequencing dream is quite a bit (bits) closer to reality…


Yes, storage devices don’t last forever and so storing bits of data is a challenge, but even more so is ‘the now’, today, tomorrow, soon… how can data become a life-giving source of knowledge? DigiBody — DNA and biotechnology… Digitization of biology…

Research that once took years, now happens in hours

One case study — As Microsoft repositions itself as a “Cloud-first” company, it’s currently running a national media campaign, “Microsoft Azure and HDInsight”

Scientists and engineers at Virginia Tech harness supercomputing power to analyze vast amounts of DNA sequencing information to help deliver lifesaving treatments.” Microsoft is leveraging its new focus on Cloud services to deliver high speed/low cost DNA sequencing…

Accelerating genome analysis in the Cloud

“Of the estimated 2,000 DNA sequencers worldwide, they are generating 15 petabytes of genome data every year,” explains Wu Feng, Professor of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. Many life sciences institutions simply do not have access to the computational and storage resources required to work with data sets of this size. In other words, says Feng, “We’re generating data faster than we can analyze it.”

Feng’s team was one of only 13 from across the country elected by a research program called Computing in the Cloud. Run by the National Science Foundation in partnership with Microsoft, the program was designed to accelerate access to cloud computing for research discovery, data analysis, and multidisciplinary collaboration. Based on the potential of their proposal, Feng’s team was awarded both a grant that covered the cost of using the Microsoft Azure platform and its supporting technical resources.

Because the applications can be accessed from virtually anywhere, including on mobile devices, Feng sees an opportunity not far in the future when researchers will be able to engage in genome analysis outside the laboratory, “say at a hospital, which could lead to faster, prescribed treatments.”


Digitization of Biology_Human genome sequencing_Aug2014

Even as we watch biotechnology applied to our day-to-day world and wonder about a future of digital technology conjoined with biology, the challenge of saving digibits presents itself. Those who look to be archivists, like monks of yesteryear, hope to save ideas for posterity (no longer print on pages, but data on drives)… Perhaps silica-storage (instead of papyrus) is in the cards — sequencers and sequencing of life’s bits…

Digitization of Biology — Into ‘Eternity’ you bitly go…

Save me (literally in silica)


Information, such as text printed on paper or images projected onto microfilm, can survive for over 500 years. However, the storage of digital information for time frames exceeding 50 years is challenging. Here we show that digital information can be stored on DNA and recovered without errors for considerably longer time frames. To allow for the perfect recovery of the information, we encapsulate the DNA in an inorganic matrix, and employ error-correcting codes to correct storage-related errors. Specifically, we translated 83 kB of information to 4991 DNA segments, each 158 nucleotides long, which were encapsulated in silica. Accelerated aging experiments were performed to measure DNA decay kinetics, which show that data can be archived on DNA for millennia under a wide range of conditions. The original information could be recovered error free, even after treating the DNA in silica at 70 °C for one week. This is thermally equivalent to storing information on DNA in central Europe for 2000 years.