DNA Camouflage for the Protection of Sequence Identity from Unauthorized Individuals

Technology #16845

Questions about this technology? Ask a Technology Manager

Download Printable PDF

Image Gallery
DNA camouflage for the protection of sequence identity from unauthorized individuals
Professor Timothy Lu
Department of Biological Engineering, MIT
External Link (be.mit.edu)
Peter Carr
Lincoln Laboratory, MIT
External Link (synbio.mit.edu)
Bijan Zakeri
Department of Biological Engineering, MIT
Managed By
Jon Gilbert
MIT Technology Licensing Officer
Patent Protection

DNA Cloaking Technologies

PCT Patent Application WO 2016-069913


DNA camouflage is a method to obscure a nucleic acid sequence such that only authorized users are able to obtain the information. DNA is a remarkably secure medium for information storage, as it is “unplugged,” invisible to the naked eye, and requires molecular biology skills to decipher. DNA camouflage technology adds an additional safeguard to securely transfer information via nucleic acids. Additionally, DNA camouflage can be used as a security measure to protect the identity of valuable genetic material owned by biological industries and academic institutions.

Problem Addressed

The amount of digital information produced is continually growing, whereas digital space is increasingly vulnerable. DNA has emerged as a potential medium for information storage due to its high density, security (e.g., cannot be accessed remotely, requires technical skill to manipulate), stability, and reproducibility. DNA camouflage provides an additional layer of security to shield encoded information from unauthorized parties. 


DNA camouflage is a method to obscure DNA sequence identity from unauthorized individuals. The system has two components: 1) the “camouflaged” DNA sequence flanked by recognition sites of recombinases, and 2) a cell that expresses the aforementioned recombinases. When the flanked DNA sequence (1) is introduced into the recombinase-expressing cell (2), the recombinases bind their recognition sites and invert or excise the sandwiched fragment. Bidirectional recombinases (e.g., FLP and Cre), which bind identical recognition sites (e.g., FRT and loxP, respectively), can be used to induce reversible combination. This causes the sequences to oscillate between two states (or more, if multiple recombinase systems are used), while the embedded data remains unchanged. An unauthorized attempt to sequence this mixed population would yield a low-quality, incomprehensible readout. Camouflaging sequences introduces complexity without altering the stored information, rendering the method useful for the protection of any valuable and safeguarded genetic material.


  • Unplugged, camouflaged information transfer
  • Generate multiple oscillating “states” of one DNA sequence