Belgian Student Completes the DNA Storage Bitcoin Challenge

It does not happen all that often that the medical sector and Bitcoin come together in a meaningful way. A PhD student at Belgium’s University of Antwerp successfully completed the DNA Storage Bitcoin challenge. By successfully cracking a DNA sequence a week before deadline, Sander Wuyts has won one Bitcoin. At today’s value, that is close to US$11,000 worth of money. It appears that Wuyts will sell his Bitcoin as soon as possible, though, as he has no long-term belief in the world’s leading cryptocurrency.

What is the DNA Storage Bitcoin Challenge?

Most people will be unfamiliar with the DNA Storage Bitcoin challenge, which is only to be expected. The challenge was created in January of 2015 by a scientist named Nick Goldman. At that year’s World Economic Forum meeting, he created this challenge as a way to get more people interested in sequencing DNA. Even with the monetary incentive, it still took nearly three years for the challenge to be completed.

Goldman’s challenge was set to expire on January 21, 2018. If no one had successfully sequenced a DNA sample by that time, the Bitcoin reward would have become moot. Decrypting encoded information in a DNA sample is not easy by any means, especially not for those who are still in the midst of their studies. Sander Wuyts successfully sequenced the DNA and decoded the Bitcoin information it contained, which netted him a nice prize of close to US$11,000. 

Goldman issued test tubes containing samples of DNA to people who requested them. The first person to successfully read the DNA and decode the files it contained would win the challenge. A private key associated with a Bitcoin address was hidden within the DNA sequence. Some people may wonder why such a challenge even exists. The answer is fairly simple, as Goldman wants to show the world that DNA sequences are a proper way to store information and data. It is still a relatively new research area, but a lot of progress has been made already.

Surprisingly, the challenge was issued at a time when one Bitcoin was worth less than US$250. It is doubtful Goldman had anticipated the value of Bitcoin would appreciate over the three years this challenge would last. Then again, it is good news for the student who completed the challenge, as receiving an US$11,000 bonus for sequencing DNA is never a bad turn of events. Wuyts confirmed he would sell the Bitcoin on the open market as soon as possible, though.

As it happens, Wuyts was one of the first Belgian investors in cryptocurrency. Even though he never spent a lot of money on it, he has kept an eye on how this particular market has evolved over the years. Unfortunately, he isn’t too optimistic about the future prospects of the Bitcoin price. He claims to doubt that the long-term value of this cryptocurrency will remain so high. He is not alone in this regard, as a lot of experts have made similar statements in the past few months.

With the money in his possession, Wuyts plans to invest in future science projects. Moreover, some of the money will be put aside to “celebrate passing his PhD in style.” It is good to see someone win this challenge, as it brings more positive attention to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency as a whole. It also validates the concept of using DNA to store data, and it will be interesting to see how that particular niche evolves in the next few years.