Biotechnology is a science that is growing by leaps and bounds and is gaining great interest from the public and investors due to one of its objectives: to bring back extinct animals.
In this effort, Colossal Biosciences is positioned as one of the pioneers in this research. It had already indicated the interest in doing so with the woolly mammoth, and now is targeting another species: the Dodo bird.
The plan to bring back extinct animals
The startup is celebrating different investment rounds for values that exceed 225 million dollars. For the company, the technology that they will use is not only demonstrative, but will have effects in a multitude of medical applications that range from gene editing to improving fertilization techniques.
The Dodo was a flightless bird that was about twice the size of a turkey and lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, about 885 kilometers east of Madagascar.
The last known one was killed in the late 1600s, after people arrived on the island and hunted the bird for food, took over its habitat, and introduced pigs and monkeys that ate its eggs.
Beth Shapiro, the company’s lead paleogeneticist and professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been trying to extract genetic material from the dead bird for most of her career. She has scraped the insides of Dodo skulls and on sugar plantations in Mauritius and finally got lucky with a well-preserved specimen in a Danish museum, and Colossal now says it has the only known high-quality complete Dodo DNA.
Three to the list
The Dodo bird is the third missing animal on Colossal’s extinction to-do list. In March, the startup said it would bring back the woolly mammoth, and in August it vowed to resurrect the Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, which was declared extinct in the 1930s.
Company insiders regularly mention the space race when discussing the company’s prospects as an example of a seemingly impossible goal that was not only achieved over time, but also spawned collateral inventions that we still use today.
“The good thing about these extinct species is that they are systems problems,” co-founder Ben Lamm tells Bloomberg. Solving a systems problem requires innovation in multiple areas and therefore creates breakthroughs that can lead to more side effects. “It’s like the moon landing. That was a system problem.”