There are plenty of lines in science that seem uncrossable, but with enough money and a lack of scruples, just about anything is possible in this day and age.
We’ve all heard plenty about scientists “playing God”, and what exactly constitutes an abomination in the name of science. For many, that line is crossed in stem cell research, or in the realm of human-animal hybrid research.
And, of course, there’s the idea of bringing extinct creatures back to life on a planet that sent them packing, and that is precisely what a number of scientists are looking to do within the decade.
A little more than two years ago, serial tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm reached out to renowned Harvard geneticist George Church. The two met in Boston, at Church’s lab, and that fruitful conversation was the catalyst for the start-up Colossal, which is announcing its existence Monday.
The start-up’s goal is ambitious and a little bit crazy: It aims to create a new type of animal similar to the extinct woolly mammoth by genetically engineering endangered Asian elephants to withstand Arctic temperatures.Trending:
The project has been kicking around for years, but nobody had ever given it enough funding to get it off the ground. Now it’s a company with $15 million in seed funding from a variety of investors and Lamm as CEO.
“We had about $100,000 over the last 15 years, which is way, way less than any other project in my lab, but not through lack of enthusiasm,” Church told CNBC. “It is by far the favorite story. We’ve never done a press release on it in all those years. It just comes up naturally in conversation.”
This isn’t some far-off maneuver, either.
It could take as little as six years for Colossal to create a calf, Church told CNBC. The timeline is “aggressive,” he admitted. “When people used to ask me that question, I said, ‘I have no idea. We don’t have any funding.’ But now, I can’t dodge it. I would say six is not out of the question.”
“Our goal is in the successful de-extinction of inter-breedable herds of mammoths that we can leverage in the rewilding of the Arctic. And then we want to leverage those technologies for what we’re calling thoughtful, disruptive conservation,” Lamm told CNBC.