Digital signatures to ensure the authenticity and integrity of synthetic DNA molecules

Kar, Diptendu Mohan, author
Ray, Indrajit, advisor
Ray, Indrakshi, advisor
Vijayasarathy, Leo R., committee member
Peccoud, Jean, committee member
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DNA synthesis has become increasingly common, and many synthetic DNA molecules are licensed intellectual property (IP). DNA samples are shared between academic labs, ordered from DNA synthesis companies and manipulated for a variety of different purposes, mostly to study their properties and improve upon them. However, it is not uncommon for a sample to change hands many times with very little accompanying information and no proof of origin. This poses significant challenges to the original inventor of a DNA molecule, trying to protect her IP rights. More importantly, following the anthrax attacks of 2001, there is an increased urgency to employ microbial forensic technologies to trace and track agent inventories. However, attribution of physical samples is next to impossible with existing technologies. In this research, we describe our efforts to solve this problem by embedding digital signatures in DNA molecules synthesized in the laboratory. We encounter several challenges that we do not face in the digital world. These challenges arise primarily from the fact that changes to a physical DNA molecule can affect its properties, random mutations can accumulate in DNA samples over time, DNA sequencers can sequence (read) DNA erroneously and DNA sequencing is still relatively expensive (which means that laboratories would prefer not to read and re-read their DNA samples to get error-free sequences). We address these challenges and present a digital signature technology that can be applied to synthetic DNA molecules in living cells.
2019 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.
Rights Access
identity based signatures
elliptic curve cryptography
Reed-Solomon codes
cyber-bio security
pairing-based cryptography
Associated Publications