New Company to Bring Back the Woolly Mammoth

Depiction of what a woolly mammoth is thought to have looked like thousands of years before it went extinct

American geneticist and Harvard Medical School professor George Church recently launched a venture that sounds straight out of a science fiction novel.

His new company, Colossal, which is based across Austin, Dallas, and Boston, has a seemingly impossible (at least, to the average person) goal of de-extincting the Woolly Mammoth. That’s right. Church has a plan to revive a massive, long-lost creature.

Backed by investment groups like Winklevoss Capital and Breyer Capital, Church has already received $15 million to fund his project.

At first, one might assume that Church’s new venture is a vanity project. In reality, though, if it succeeds (and Church is confident it will), it will actually aid in the fight against global warming.

Bringing the Woolly Mammoth back to the Arctic tundra will support the ecosystem by keeping carbon pools (and the greenhouse gases trapped inside them) preserved in ice longer than they would otherwise. The discoveries made by this research may also aid in preventing other species, including modern elephant species, from going extinct.

The de-extinction process involves 11 not-so-simple steps. It begins with sequencing the Woolly Mammoth genome, editing the genes that make a woolly mammoth into an elephant embryo, and then gestating that embryo to term.

As a geneticist, Church has plenty of experience carrying out processes like these. For example, one of his other start-ups, e-Genesis, edited 42 genes in pigs so that their organs could be used in human transplants.

Church and his Colossal team, which is led by tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm, are confident that this project can be successful and yield great results for the planet and its residents. However, it will not be a quick fix. It’s estimated to take about 12 years to produce a mature woolly mammoth.

Ben Lamm (L) and George Church (R) – Photo: Colossal

In the meantime, those who want to learn more about Colossal and the de-extinction project can visit the company’s website here.