The Molecular Information Systems Lab (MISL) at the University of Washington explores the intersection of information technology and molecular biology using in-silico and wet lab experiments. A partnership between UW Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Microsoft Research, MISL brings together faculty, students and research scientists with expertise in computer architecture, programming languages, synthetic biology, and biochemistry.
Our interdiscplinary research group explores many different areas of computing and biomolecules, including DNA data storage, synthetic biology, molecular sensing, and cyber-biosecurity. For example, one current focus is on using synthetic DNA for data storage. Using DNA to archive data is an attractive possibility because it is extremely dense, with a raw limit of 1 exabyte per cubic milimeter, and long-lasting, with observed half-life of over 500 years. We are developing a complete system architecture for DNA-backed archival storage, with support for random access and encoding schemes that offer reliability for density trade-offs.
Why are we excited about DNA storage? The faint pink smear in the photo can hold over 10 terabytes of data. And it can last for a long time.
The integration of silicon and biomolecular systems is a promising direction of research that is motivated by potentially transformative outcomes. For example, molecular storage and computing components can be incredibly small, engineered with atomic precision, operate autonomously, and are capable of directly interfacing with natural biological systems for "near-data" processing tasks. However, for such systems to have broader real-world use, they must become faster, scalable, and more accessible to non-experts. Towards these goals, we apply molecular engineering, machine learning and nascent nanopore technology to overcome current limitations in molecular information processing systems.