February 2, 2023
The flightless bird known as the dodo has been missing since the late 17th century, when humans hunted them into extinction—but that’s not stopping the biotech startup Colossal Biosciences from trying to bring it back from the dead, reports Futurism.
Now, Bloomberg was first to report, Colossal is armed with a boatload of additional money, bagging another $150 million in investor backing, bringing the total to $225 million since 2021.
And even more tantalizingly, according to lead paleogeneticist Beth Shapiro, Colossal is now the sole possessor of a complete dodo genome, sequenced from a DNA sample that was extracted from preserved remains in Denmark.
“We’re clearly in the middle of an extinction crisis,” Shapiro said, as quoted by CNN. “And it’s our responsibility to bring stories and to bring excitement to people in [a] way that motivates them to think about the extinction crisis that’s going on right now.”
Actually resurrecting the dodo, even with a complete genome, will be extremely challenging, and some would argue impossible. At best, the result would be the closest possible proxy—a hybrid that’s slightly altered—and not a wholly original dodo.
And anyone that’s watched the blockbuster 1993 movie, Jurassic Park, could tell you that this might be a bad idea, or at least one that should be approached with extreme caution.
That isn’t deterring investor Thomas Tull, though, whose United States Innovative Technology Fund has been among Colossal’s biggest backers (in full disclosure, the managing partner of Futurism’s parent company, North Equity, is an investor in Colossal, although neither was involved in this story in any way.)
Strikingly, Tull also produced the sans-Spielberg 2015 sequel, Jurassic World, an installment in a franchise that warns that resurrecting long-extinct creatures is not a great idea.
Then again, dodos aren’t anywhere near as ferocious as velociraptors or the mighty T-Rex; but the impact of any creature introduced (or reintroduced) into a new ecosystem and food chain—no matter how feeble or fearsome—is difficult to foresee.
“When you’re doing big things like this, who knows what you’re going to discover along the way,” Tull said, as quoted by Bloomberg.
Hopefully we won’t be discovering the hard way that, in Jeff Goldblum’s iconic words, “Life, uh, finds a way.”
Research contact: @futurism