Biocomputing — a cutting-edge field of technology — operates at the intersection of biology, engineering, and computer science. It seeks to use cells or their sub-component molecules (such as DNA or RNA) to perform functions traditionally performed by an electronic computer.
What is Biocomputing and Applications
- Cells are far more powerful at computing than our best computers
- Biological matter can perform calculations and process data without using as much energy, and without heating up significantly
- Myosin-enabled biocomputing could perform multiple computations simultaneously
- Biological molecules also display an intelligent ability to self-organize and self-repair. So, biocomputing engineers will have to find ways to simulate this intelligent ‘software’ on top of the biological molecule ‘hardware’ to produce, organize, and repair the biocomputing system
- The cell as a “physical” computer. A model of computation formally defines inputs and outputs, as well as how an algorithm processes inputs into outputs
- The encoding of information into inputs can be done in different ways. Temperature, for instance, can be encoded as the height of mercury in a tube, the voltage of an electronic thermometer or the state of a DNA thermosensor
- Biological computers are made from living cells. Instead of electrical wiring and signaling, biological computers use chemical inputs and other biologically derived molecules such as proteins and DNA. Just like a desktop computer, these organic computers can respond to data and process it
- Future biological systems may offer competitive performance in related areas such as data storage, the benefits are largely limited to the exploitation of material factors such as miniaturisation and longevity of components.
- The opportunity to control quantum effects in a biological system that “runs” at room temperature, through the emergence of a “quantum synthetic biology”, could turn out to be a game changer in the quantum supremacy race
- The industry has raised more than $12.3B in the last 10 years and last year, 98 synthetic biology companies collectively raised $3.8 billion, compared to just under $400 million total invested less than a decade ago
- The cost to order a custom DNA sequence has fallen faster than Moore’s law
- Synthetic biology companies are disrupting nearly every industry, from agriculture to medicine to cell-based meats. Engineered microorganisms are even being used to produce more sustainable fabrics and manufacture biofuels from recycled carbon emissions
Biocomptuing vs Bioinformatics
- Bioinformatics differs from a related field known as computational biology. Computational biology encompasses all biological areas that involve computation.
- Bioinformatics is limited to sequence, structural, and functional analysis of genes and genomes and their corresponding products and is often considered computational molecular biology.
- Bioinformatics as the development and application of computational tools in managing all kinds of biological data, whereas computational biology is more confined to the theoretical development of algorithms used for bioinformatics.