A little over two years ago, serial technology entrepreneur Benram contacted the renowned Harvard geneticist George Church. The two met in Boston’s Church lab, and the fruitful conversation inspired startup Colossal, which announced its existence on Monday.
The startup goal is ambitious and a little crazy. By genetically engineering endangered Asian elephants to withstand the temperatures of the Arctic Circle, we aim to create a new type of animal that resembles an extinct mammoth.
The project has been underway for years, but no one has given enough money to get it on track. The company is now raising $ 15 million in seed funding from various investors and CEO Lamb.
Benram (left) and George Church.
Photo courtesy of Colossal
“We’ve had about $ 100,000 in the last 15 years, which is far less than any other project in my lab, but not due to a lack of enthusiasm,” Church told CNBC. “This is by far my favorite story. We haven’t released a press release all the time. It just comes naturally in the conversation.”
Charles, Professor of Genetics, Robert Winthrop Harvard Medical School Teacher with Harvard University Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Has a renowned scientific career.He started Personal Genome Project,start More than 20 companies, And has over 100 patents in his name.
So far, the church’s vision of reviving the mammoth is “mainly dreaming and talking,” he said. “Ben turned blue. I think he was inspired by something far from what he was reading about this very charismatic project, which was very underfunded.”
Church told CNBC that it could take just six years for Colossal to make a calf. He admitted that the timeline was “aggressive.” “When people used to ask me that question, I said,” I don’t know. We don’t have the money. ” But now I can’t dodge it. I don’t think six are out of the question. “
“Our goal is to successfully exterminate fertile herds of mammoths that can be used to re-wild the Arctic, and what we call thoughtful and destructive protection is their technology. I want to take advantage of it, “Mr. Lam said. CNBC.
Proponents of the project say that rewilding the Arctic Circle with mammoths can delay global warming by delaying the melting of the permafrost, where methane is currently trapped.
It’s a huge “for-profit company,” Lam told CNBC, but investors are unlikely to get cash right away. “Currently, no investor is focused on monetization, which is great,” Lam said.
Another Investor and Advisor, Richard Garriott, President Explorers Club And video game entrepreneurs Those who spent $ 30 million to go to space as touristsTells CNBC that he is excited about future applications Synthetic biology, Refers to the science of redesigning organisms for specific purposes other than mammoths.
“Beyond the realization of the’disappearance’surprise, demonstrating technology with extinction is just the beginning. These same technologies can solve a huge human problem. “Let’s do it,” Galiot told CNBC. “Synthetic biology can create new life forms that can address large-scale problems, from oil and plastic purification to carbon sequestration. Tissue rejection and the resolution of artificial wombs will extend the lifespan of all humans. Helps to prolong and improve. “
Mammoths have been almost extinct for 10,000 years, and the final trace population survives as follows: About 4,000 years ago..
However, genetically, mammoths are very similar to Asian elephants.
“The Asian elephant is an endangered species, so we want to preserve it,” Church said.
“There are two main things that endanger it. One is the herpesvirus. The other is close to humans, so fix both and create a new home with vast space. I would like to offer. Few people are in northern Canada, Alaska, or Siberia. “
That’s why Colossal aims to create genetically modified Asian elephants with herpesvirus resistance and the ability to withstand ice-cold temperatures.
Church explained that what the giant calf is trying to create looks and works like a mammoth.
Sounds like science fiction, but Church said he was confident that Asian elephants could be genetically modified because they had the same genetic manipulations as pigs and had 42 genetically modified cells.
“Then you can turn these cells into animals by transferring the nucleus, which is the part of the cell that contains the DNA, to an egg and growing it into a piglet,” Church said. He said these GM pigs are healthy enough to be used for organ transplants in preclinical studies at three hospitals across the country.
“That’s our proof of concept that we can do it,” Church said. “We didn’t do it as an elephant prelude, we did it for ourselves, but it helps convince us to get to the elephant.”
Genetically modified elephants are first transplanted into the genetically engineered endometrium and then grow in the bag. This is similar to the artificial womb used by Philadelphia scientists to grow a genetically engineered uterus. Lamb In 2017, Church said.
Researchers have succeeded in raising immature lambs in an artificial womb.
Source: Flake et al. , Nature Communications
Colossal hopes to work with two Russian scientists to sow mammoths at Praistozeno Park, a nature reserve on the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia. The mammoth is the idea that it will be part of a long-term plan to restore the tundra to prehistoric grass rather than trees.
If these resurrected mammoths eventually repopulate the Arctic, they will kill small trees and help them re-grow the breeding grass, Church said. Those grasses reflect sunlight better than the dark trunks of the conifers that live there. In addition, mammoths weaken snow and reduce insulation.
These grasses cool the ecosystem and then reduce the release of trapped methane gas from the melting of permafrost, which is a major cause of global warming.
“When that methane is released, it’s 30 times worse than carbon dioxide per molecule“As for its ability to cause global warming, Church said.
“That’s the idea of adding another species to the nine species that already need to be helped to return to a healthier ecosystem, at least from a human perspective,” Church told CNBC.
Clarification: This story has been updated with additional information about the funding round on Monday.
Geneticist George Church Raises Laboratory-Grown Mammoths
Source link Geneticist George Church Raises Laboratory-Grown Mammoths