A book complete with illustrations has been encoded in DNA

From Nature:

BookA trio of researchers has encoded a draft of a whole book into DNA. The 5.27-megabit tome contains 53,246 words, 11 JPG image files and a JavaScript program, making it the largest piece of non-biological data ever stored in this way. DNA has the potential to store huge amounts of information. In theory, two bits of data can be incorporated per nucleotide — the single base unit of a DNA string — so each gram of the double-stranded molecule could store 455 exabytes of data (1 exabyte is 1018 bytes). Such dense packing outstrips inorganic data-storage devices such as flash memory, hard disks or even storage based on quantum-computing methods. The book, which is fittingly a treatise on synthetic biology, was encoded by geneticists George Church and Sriram Kosuri at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in Boston, Massachusetts, and Yuan Gao, a biomedical engineer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. They report their work in Science1 this week.

It marks a significant gain on previous projects — the largest of which encoded less than one-six-hundredth of the data — but organic flash drives are still many years away. There are a number of reasons why the method is not practical for everyday use. For example, both storing and retrieving information currently require several days of lab work, spent either synthesizing DNA from scratch or sequencing it to read the data. The work illustrates the potential of nonconventional approaches, says Stuart Parkin, who is developing dense forms of inorganic storage media at the IBM-Stanford Spintronic Science and Applications Center in San Jose, California. “You could say that the physical sciences have exhausted the playground of concepts, and we now need to go beyond that world,” he says. “This coupling of the biological world to the physical world will lead to some very interesting storage devices in the next decade.”

More here.