Have we learned nothing from Jurassic Park? Are there no qualms with playing God on a global scale anymore? Has the thrill-seeker personality-type invaded the science world?
These are all the questions that we should be asking ourselves now that a group of scientists has decided that bringing back the Woolly Mammoth is an idea worth fast-tracking.
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.
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.”
And just how quickly could this happen?
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.
Of course, “disruptive conservation” sounds like an artful way of admitting to the bizarre nature of the idea, and to the potential for unforeseen consequences.