Why We Invested in Iridia
Harnessing nature’s perfect data storage system
The world is generating data at an exponential rate that is far exceeding our capacity to store it. By 2035, there will be more than 1 trillion internet-connected devices, according to The Economist. Currently, more than 20 zettabytes of digital data are lost each year due to storage capacity limitations (that is a lot of cat memes and TikTok videos that are being lost forever). We need to look for new solutions to solve this problem, and one of the most intriguing is nature’s very own data storage system: DNA.
That is why Prime Movers Lab is excited to lead a $6 million round in Iridia, which is pioneering fully integrated DNA-based memory chips. Iridia’s revolutionary data storage solution integrates a proprietary enzyme approach to “write” synthetic DNA and semiconductor chip technology to add orders of magnitude more storage capacity when compared to current archival technologies such as magnetic tapes and hard drives. This approach could dramatically reduce the physical and carbon footprints of commercial data centers around the world.
Iridia is tackling two major problems of traditional storage devices: data density and durability. One of the densest forms of storage is tape cartridges, which house about 10GB/cm3. Iridia is on a path to having a storage device that could store 1PB/cm3 and reduce latency by 10–100 times compared to magnetic tapes. The other problem that Iridia is solving is durability. Rotating disks tend to work for 3–5 years, while magnetic tapes for 8–10 years. Because DNA is extremely durable, Iridia’s technology on the other hand has an estimated half-life of more than 500 years.
Prime Movers Lab hosted a webinar on DNA data storage this summer (watch it here on YouTube), and Iridia President and CEO Murali Prahalad outlined how the company’s proprietary system differs from traditional DNA storage solutions. Current alternative DNA storage technologies store digital information into single nucleotide sequences (the basic building blocks of DNA — ATCG): the process includes converting data from 0s and 1s into As, Ts, Cs & Gs and synthesizing short stretches of DNA, storing it and ultimately sequencing the stored DNA to read back the encoded information. Iridia overcomes the limitations of existing DNA storage technologies by using nano memory cell technology and its enzyme-based biochemistry that writes digital data in synthetic DNA and permits the optimized storage and reading of that information within devices that can integrate into a modern data center.
Cost is another limiting factor for many storage systems. Synthetizing and sequencing require expensive devices and the cost to store and retrieve 1 TB can be north of $1M. Iridia’s technology has the potential to reduce the cost of encoding & retrieving 1 TB of data stored in DNA to less than $1, paving the way for the first commercially viable DNA data storage solution.
We at Prime Movers Lab think DNA provides the most exciting opportunity for solving the data storage problem, and Iridia has the right team and approach for the vast and underserved data storage space. Along with Iridia’s previous $24 million investment round, this additional funding will help develop working prototypes and advance strategic partnerships with major data archiving/storage companies in the hard drive, data services, and data center space.
In addition, I’m thrilled to be joining their board of directors. Iridia’s durable, decodable, and ultra-high-density semiconductor chip solution is the world’s first affordable, integrated data storage solution that can write, store, and read data seamlessly — a true breakthrough that could transform billions of lives, making them a natural fit for the Prime Movers Lab family.
Prime Movers Lab invests in breakthrough scientific startups founded by Prime Movers, the inventors who transform billions of lives. We invest in companies reinventing energy, transportation, infrastructure, manufacturing, human augmentation, and agriculture.
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