Colossal hopes to help bring back the former's woolly mammothtinction. Images / Orla
You have heard of startups creating computer chips, delivery drones and video chat. One of them, Colossal, has a different purpose: bring back "the woolly mammoth from extinction by 2027 using CRISPR, "a revolutionary gene editing technology .
The plan is not to recreate real woolly mammoths, but rather to recreate real woolly mammoths. bring their cold-adapted genetic traits, which include small ears and more body fat, to their elephant cousins, creating a hybrid that can roam the tundra where mammoths have not been seen for 10,000 years. The co-founders of Colossal are Managing Director Ben Lamm, who has founded "five companies before that, and George Church, a Harvard Medical School professor with deep CRISPR expertise.
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"Our true polar star is a successful restoration of the woolly mammoth, but also its success in remaking crossbreed herds in the arctic, "said Lamm. " We are now focusing on the birth of our first calves in four to six years. "
This is an interesting illustration of an imperative sweeping the tech world: don't just make money, help the planet too. Tesla 's mission is to electrify transportation to get rid of fossil fuels that harm the Earth. Bolt " Threads wants to replace leather with an equivalent based on fungal fibers more environmentally friendly than animal agriculture. Colossal hopes his work will draw attention to biodiversity issues and ultimately help solve them.
Colossal has raised $ 15 million so far, thanks to the company investment Tulco . The startup's 19 employees work at i ts headquarters in Dallas and offices in Boston and Austin, Texas, and it uses its funds to hire more.
Artificial martens and other tech spinoffs
Church has said he expects some spinoff from the company's biotechnology and genetics work.
"The pipeline of large-scale genome engineering techniques can be applied to many other applications beyond de-extinction, and bytherefore [are] the most promising for commercialization, "he said.
A whole new world
A single successful technology for commercialization is multiplex genome engineering , a technique Church helped develop that accelerates gene editing by making multiple DNA changes at one time.
Colossal also hopes to develop uteri arartificial to grow mammoth embryos. Raising 10 woolly mammoths with elephant surrogate mothers isn't enough to reach the large-scale herds envisioned by the company.
CRISPR is the foundation of Colossal's work. This technology, adapted from a method bacteria developed to identify attacking viruses and slice their DNA, is now a mainstay of genetic engineering, and Church has been involved since the early days of CRISPR.
There are other ways Colossal hopes to help. Its gene editing technology could artificially add
Jurassic Park-style tourism? No
Selling or licensing spin-off technology is a somewhat indirect way of running a business. A more direct option is to sell tickets to tourists. After all, humans are already paying ba lot of money to see the megafauna "charismatic like lions, elephants and giraffes on African safaris. Seeing a creature that has been extinct for 10,000 years might add to the excitement.
But that's not Colossal's game plan "Our current focus is on preserving species and protecting biodiversity, not putting them in zoos," Lamm said. By recreating woolly mammoths, Colossal can preserve the genetic heritage of Asian elephants which are now in "danger .
Another candidate species Colossal wants to recreate is the woolly rhino, a relative of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino.
Although Colossal does not plan to build a tourist destination , it has a woolly mammoth rewilding site in the esprit that sounds terribly closed to Jurassic Park: Pleistocene "Park This area of about 60 square miles in northern Russia, named after the geological period that ended with the last ice age, is where researchers Sergey and Nikita Zimov are trying to test their theories on the ecological and climatic effects of rewilding.
One idea from Zimov is that woolly mammoths will trample on snow and chop down trees. This, in turn, will restore grasslands that reflect more heat from the sun's rays and remove insulating snow and forests so the ground cools down further. And that means the ground will stay frozen instead of releasing its current greenhouse gas reserve of carbon dioxide and methane. . According to scientists' calculations, around 260 billion at 300 billion " metric tons of carbon could be released by thawing permafrost by 2300, which extreme weather conditions and other problems caused by climate change .
Is species de-extinction a good idea?
There is a call for the idea of de-extinction. Humans have dramatically altered the planet, and the United Nations believes that we "are threatening 1 million species with extinction accordingly.
Colossal hopes its work will draw more attention to the collapse of biodiversity. And he also plans to create detailed genetic deions of many endangered species "so that we have the recipe if this species goes extinct " said Lamm.
But is it vrlike the best use of our resources to help the planet? No, some researchers think.
Resurrection of species might have some benefits, but the money would be better spent protecting the ones that still exist, a a " group of biologists argued in an article published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. "Potential sacrifices in conservation of extant species should be a crucial consideration in deciding whether to invest in extinction or to focus our efforts on extant species, "the researchers wrote.
But this is not government money talks, and Lamm argues that his startup's work complements other conservation efforts. And, he says, startups can go faster than government-funded work.
In a world dominated by the climate crisis headlines, uA startup that makes money by focusing on improving the ecosystem has a special appeal. An investor, Zack Lynch from Jazz "Venture Partners , is excited about the software, hardware and biotechnology he expects Colossal to create.
At the same time, "these breakthroughs will help solve problems such as degradation land, loss of animal pollinators and other negative trends in biodiversity, "Lynch said. Given the magnitude of our environmental problems, you can see why an investor might be interested.