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Prestigious grant for Technion researchers: Towards a complete system for storing DNA information

The field of DNA-based computing is considered one of the most promising directions in the world of information today, since a single gram of DNA may store enormous information within it, it will be possible to save a lot of energy and store a much larger volume of data

DNA based computer. Illustration:
DNA based computer. Illustration:

Researchers from the Technion won the prestigious EIC Pathfinder grant from the European Union. The entire grant is about 4 million euros, and 1.5 of it will be allocated to research that will be conducted at the Technion.

The research is led by Prof. Eitan Yacovi and Prof. Zohar Yachini from the Taub Faculty of Computer Science, who are the project's research coordinators. The two are experts in storing information in DNA, a field that is considered one of the most promising directions in the world of information today, since a single gram of DNA may store enormous information within it. In light of the dizzying increase in the volume of information in the world, the need for a cheap, compact and non-polluting alternative is increasing. Server farms (the "cloud") not only currently consume about 3% of global electricity consumption, but also "contribute" about 2% of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. The DNA alternative, on the other hand, provides significant miniaturization (six to ten orders of magnitude), retention of the information for a much longer term and zero energy cost.

The basic idea is this: in an artificial process (synthesis) DNA molecules are produced that contain the information in different sequences of the four letters of the language of heredity - the nucleotides, marked with the letters G, C, A and T. To read the information, sequencing of the DNA is required, a relatively simple process whose cost decreases year by year. The main challenges in the field are currently found in the synthesis process itself, and this is what the research of Professors Yachini and Yacovi is dedicated to. The grant is intended to support the two researchers and their partners in the development of advanced methods for the synthesis of artificial DNA that will be faster, cheaper and more accurate. The said research will also deal with issues such as privacy and information security and uses in the field of cryptography. 

The other researchers in the project are Prof. Antonia Wachter-Che and Prof. Reinhard Heckel from TUM University, Prof. Marc Samzosa from the LSB Institute at TUM University, Prof. Robert Grass from ETH Zurich University and Prof. Kunal Messania from TU Delft University.

EIC Pathfinder grants support researchers who develop new and ground-breaking technologies that have significant impact potential but also significant risk (High Risk High Gain). Last year Technion researchers Prof. Beaz Pokroy and Prof. Esti Segal won the grant for the development of technology that will protect agricultural crops.

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