A CRISPR-based startup with a mission of bringing back the woolly mammoth has raised $15 million in funding, as GenomeWeb has reported.
The company, called Colossal, was co-founded by Harvard Medical School's George Church and Ben Lamm, a software and technology entrepreneur. Church has sought to bring back the woolly mammoth for years. In 2015, he told the Sunday Times that his lab had used CRISPR to insert 14 mammoth genes associated with cold tolerance like hairiness, hemoglobin, and subcutaneous fat into elephant cells and in 2017 said they had made 45 edits to the elephant genome to make it more similar to that of a mammoth.
With this new company, Church and his colleagues aim to help conserve the Asian elephant as well as restore the tundra to a grassland, the Guardian reports. "Our goal is to make a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth. Not because we are trying to trick anybody, but because we want something that is functionally equivalent to the mammoth, that will enjoy its time at -40C, and do all the things that elephants and mammoths do, in particular knocking down trees," Church tells it.
But as the New York Times notes, many researchers are skeptical that the company will be successful. In addition, it says the effort raises ethical questions as it tries to bring back a little-understood animal to release into the wild.