Colossal Biosciences is on a mission to revive the woolly mammoth, aiming for the birth of a calf by 2028.
Scientists at the company are reconstructing the woolly mammoth genome using samples from preserved specimens, supplemented with DNA from modern Asian elephants.
The plan involves using surrogate elephants for the embryos and negotiating with tribal and governmental partners for the potential release or ‘re-wilding’ of woolly mammoths.
Scientific Approach and Genetic Reconstruction:
Genomic Reconstruction and Surrogate Mothers:
Utilizing genetic material from exposed woolly mammoth specimens, scientists at Colossal plan to rebuild the genome.
The missing segments will be filled with DNA from Asian elephants, which share 99.6 percent of their genome with woolly mammoths.
The reconstructed genetic code will be inserted into donor egg cells from Asian elephants, leading to in vitro fertilization and implantation into surrogates.
While other extinct species like dodos and thylacines are on Colossal’s de-extinction list, the woolly mammoth takes precedence.
The company envisions the eventual establishment of woolly mammoth populations on the tundra, emphasizing the seriousness of their goals.
Company Overview and Funding:
Colossal’s Growth and Financial Backing:
Since its launch in 2021, Colossal Biosciences has expanded to a team of 115 full-time scientists and 60 external collaborators.
The company has secured $225 million in funding from notable investors, including Thomas Tull, Tim Draper, and Bob Nelson, along with environmental impact investment firms At One Ventures and Climate Capital.
Biotech Advancements and Monetization:
Colossal’s investors anticipate significant returns as the company develops biotech advances related to resurrecting the woolly mammoth.
The company plans to monetize some technologies, with examples like biotech startup Form Bio, a spinoff from Colossal.
While conservation-specific tools will be provided to nonprofits and governments, profit-oriented applications will contribute to shareholder appreciation.
Debate on De-Extinction and Conservation Impact:
Scientific Controversy and Public Opinion:
Colossal faces debates over the ethical and conservation implications of de-extinction efforts.
Critics argue that these projects may divert funding from more efficient conservation techniques.
However, Colossal’s CEO, Ben Lamm, contends that private investment in Colossal doesn’t impact traditional scientific grant funding.
Future Plans and Additional De-Extinction Projects:
Beyond the woolly mammoth, Colossal is involved in bringing back other extinct species, such as the dodo bird and the thylacine.
The thylacine’s reintroduction is gaining support, with potential re-wilding sites identified through collaboration with local officials, industry groups, and indigenous communities.
Public Perception and Poll Results:
Colossal conducted a poll on the Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) de-extinction project, revealing that 77 percent of respondents supported scientists attempting to bring thylacines back from extinction.
Lamm expressed a desire to understand the perspectives of the remaining 23 percent, emphasizing the importance of public reassurance for the project’s success.