How Colossal is using genetic engineering to bring back the woolly mammoth

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As data management platforms go, Colossal Biosciences has its own huge Petri dish, both innovative and commonplace, developed by. After all, how many software tools help in the development of artificial embryos using genomics and synthetic biology to return previously extinct species to the real-world food chain?

Colossal, a one-year-old Dallas- and Boston-based startup that emerged from Stealth States last fall and says it aims to restructure a clone of the long-extinct Woolly Mammoth (thus, the company’s name), announced today at 60 million. Has come. Series A Financing Infusion, led by Thomas Tul and At One Ventures.

While most people may see this as a moon shot, others in the field of global science, conservation and climate-repair see some credibility here. Read the company side of the story before making a final decision on the viability of it all.

The high-level idea is that sci-fi, using artificial biology to revive extinct organisms, to make eggs out of DNA originating from hairs or bones, is no longer sci-fi. The goal is ambitious and a bit crazy: to genetically engineer terrifying Asian elephants to cope with Arctic temperatures to create a new species of animal like the extinct woolly mammoth. The company has created a genetics toolkit to enable interested developers to do scientific work.

Returning such a large mammal to its natural habitat would actually benefit the planet and help repair the currently degraded ecosystem, Colossal COO Kent Wakford told VentureBeat. By maintaining the grassland ecosystem of the plains, which absorbs less sunlight than trees, mammoths can help keep carbon pools and their greenhouse gases bound by ice for longer.

What’s in the AI ​​dev platform

“The platform we’ve created is genetic sequencing, putting machine learning at the top, analysis – whether it’s applied to drug discovery, or to medicine, or just to general research,” Wakford said. “There are tools for visualizing data; Then we also have an approximate model for genetic research. We’ve included collaborative tools for research. “

Reviving an animal like a mammoth is a project that has been going on for years, and it got some serious help in 2019 when serial investor Ben Lam approached Harvard University biologist George Church to undertake the project. Church, Lam, Wakford and their team launched Colossal in 2021 and have now come up with their own highly specialized development platform.

“We are working with nonprofits, conservation groups, governments and the general public to develop a genetic toolkit and help restore DNA databases, diversify and rebuild endangered species,” Wakford said. “This work will enable comprehensive population-based indexing and computational analysis of elephant and mammoth genomes, genome editing and viral resistance as well as X-vivo development.”

The breeding techniques that Colossal is developing will not only help advance the reintroduction of mammoth-elephant hybrids in the Arctic but will have positive effects for all mammals and allow for a deeper understanding of evolutionary changes in numerous critical species, Wakford said.

In addition to expanding work on the revival of woolly mammoths, this new round of funding will lead to the expansion and leasing of advanced genetic acquisition tools, software and vetware for use in human health and disease prevention, Wakford said. Said.

“As the Covid-19 epidemic has shown, scientific innovation – and funding to support it – has never been more important,” said Thomas Tully, Colossal’s chief investor in a media consultancy. “Under the leadership of visionary geneticist George Church, Colossal has some of the best minds focused on developing progressive tools that range from science and biotechnology, from disease eradication to the development of new drugs, to CRISPR DNA sequencing, and also to the challenges surrounding reproduction.”

Robert Nelson, co-founder of Untimmed Planet, Animal Capital, Arc Ventures, Bold Capital, Jazz Ventures, Green Sands Equities, in the funding round. , Among others, brought the total funding to $ 75 million, the company said. As part of this next phase of growth, Colossal said it would accelerate recruitment across the company into computational biology, embryology, stem cell biology, software engineering, advanced biology, medical device hardware and genomics.

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