SRC in the White House
SRC’s CEO Ken Hansen and Chief Scientist Victor Zhirnov participated in the White House Bioeconomy Summit on October 7, 2019. The future of the American Bioeconomy will be a defining factor of the 21st century. The Summit outcome will help inform meaningful Administration actions and recommendations to ensure America leads the world in the science, technology, and useful application of biology.
Transcript of Ken Hansen’s panel talk at the White House Bioeconomy Summit on October 7, 2019:
“You’re probably asking yourself why would someone from the semiconductor industry participate in a discussion on bioeconomy? Am I lost or has Moore’s Law finally ended? No, I’m here to talk about applications and opportunities at the intersection of biology and electronics. Most, if not all of my examples, adds to the economic value above and beyond what Rob just laid out. It is not a matter of if it will happen but rather when it will happen and who will own the space. The transformation will require discipline, stamina and passion.
At Semiconductor Research Corporation, we have been pursuing two areas: Semiconductor Synthetic Biology and Bioelectronic Medicine. SRC took a leading role in developing first of its kind roadmaps for both areas – I have a few copies here with me.
It is becoming increasingly clear that information processing plays a central role in biological systems from molecular to ecological scales. Advances in the science of synthetic biology are beginning to suggest possible pathways for extending future semiconductor technologies.
The SemiSynBio program encourages research ideas motivated by biological information processing aimed at future highly functional, space-limited computing and semiconductor technologies with high information density at extremely low energy consumption. Research in this domain is expected to spur new approaches toward alternative computing paradigms.
Our primary area of research has been focused on DNA storage. A study done by Victor Zhirnov at SRC indicates that if data storage continues to grow exponentially that a conservative estimate is that 3*10^24 bits of information storage will be required by the year 2040. At Flash densities that can be anticipated in 2040, it would require one billion kg of silicon. However, the projected annual global supply is only one hundred million kg and thus falls short of the need. We must find and alternative. DNA is an extremely dense storage media with the potential for 1,000+ years of data retention. Victor has estimated that the 3*10^24 bits that require one billion kg of silicon could be stored in roughly a single kg of DNA.
There are of course issues that must be resolved including synthesis and sequencing costs and speeds, error correction coding schemes and a viable OS. SRC and NSF have jointly funded a $12M, 3 year program in part focused on attacking these issues. Additionally SRC has worked with IARPA to define their Molecular Information Storage (MIST) program to specifically attack the storage problem utilizing DNA or any other synthetic polymer. With a data storage market size of approximately $50B growing at 12.5% CAGR, it will surpass $100B by 2025. This market size provides ample opportunity to be a valued part of the bioeconomy. Furthermore, access to and secure storage of data for data analytic studies, AI training, etc. is vital to the intelligence and defense communities. While these investments are a good start, they are simply not enough given the need for alternative storage and the market size opportunity.
In addition to pursuit of DNA storage in SRC’s SSB program, we are looking at biosensors/actuators, both bioinspired and bio computing, and molecular precision self-assembly for sub 5nm silicon devices. Lastly design automation approaches are being developed to create efficient tools for these biotechnology solutions. As many of the systems are a hybrid between biology and electronics a key study element is the interface between the two elements. Solutions in these spaces will further stimulate the bioeconomy.
Bioelectronic Medicine provides the opportunity for targeted and personalized treatments of diseases and conditions in closed-loop control systems; it will revolutionize medicine and dramatically improve the outcomes of healthcare. It employs electrical, magnetic, optical, ultrasound, etc. pulses to affect and modify nerve behavior, which in turn impacts body functions as an alternative or supplement to drug-based interventions.
To develop a comprehensive Bioelectronic Medicine program, joint efforts of experts from different disciplines are needed: biology, chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, materials science, medicine, neuroscience, neurosurgery, physics, and semiconductor technology. SRC is currently building a BEM program where the research vectors will be defined by the participants.
Pharmaceuticals is a $1T market growing at a 9.7% CAGR and Biomedical devices is a $500B market growing at 5.3% CAGR. Bioelectronic medicine solutions will be provided by either the pharmaceutical or biomedical device industry. As the ability to create exclusive patent protected chemically based drugs has slowed, new opportunities will come from bioelectronics medicine due to its potential for personalization, targeted treatment and effectiveness. Solutions in this space provide for a sustained growth for this segment of the bioeconomy.
Bio-based products today are often not competitive at the current market prices. The same is true for DNA based storage and Bioelectronic Medicine solutions. Further competitiveness requires continued research and development. At the same time, the pace of innovation globally has accelerated challenging the leadership position that the US has traditionally held. This calls for a government stimulus working with industry to accelerate the US investment in Research. Funding academic research not only provides the innovation but also creates the workforce pipeline that is sorely needed for a sustainable biotech industry. By working closely with industry and training next generation leaders a natural technology transfer to commercialization is created. We have seen this cycle repeat itself over and over through similar investments with SRC for the semiconductor industry. Lastly, those countries that harness the current wave of innovation and capitalize on its transformative power will gain economic and military advantages over potential rivals.”