IPO Corner: A Cure For Extinction

Gird yourself… we have a problem. Within the last few weeks, a report has been released that is the culmination of 50 years of data sourced from over 1,000 scientists all over the country. What the report had to say is sobering. The name of the organization that released the report is a nonprofit called NatureServe, and their data indicates that we are at risk for the extinction of a third of all animal and plant species in the United States.

Furthermore, 40% of ecosystems are at risk of collapse globally because of this. This as some experts are estimating the rate of loss of species at around 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than what is considered a natural extinction rate. The most sobering snippet we found when scouring for information about this problem… 50% of the global economy is under threat from biodiversity loss. Half is a number that makes us sit up and take notice, that’s a number that can’t be denied or ignored.

So… with such substantial numbers staring us in the face, what are we to do? One thing we can do: biosciences for de-extinction. Yes, we’ve finally made it to the part of the future where we have the technology to resurrect extinct animals, just like we’ve been dreaming of doing for ages. After all, while Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was about a man, it’s the human drive to purposefully create life that the work was centered around.

Now, we’d like to remind you that we’ve had variations of de-extinction techniques for some time now. Techniques for accomplishing de-extinction include assisted breeding, cloning, genome editing, and synthetic genomics, which fall loosely under the same umbrella. Of these, assisted breeding, cloning, and genome editing are species restoration to re-establish ecosystems and biodiversity… but only true de-extinction reverses plant and animal extinctions.

How It Works

While there are some projects that have been around for a long time that use assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as the Northern White Rhino project… what we haven’t seen in “real life” (up until now), is a company going full Jurassic Park and using biosciences to actually resurrect species that have been declared extinct. Essentially, what we need is a company that can resurrect extinct animals for release into suitable habitats for ecosystem and biodiversity restoration.

In a nutshell… the way it would work to use biosciences to truly de-extinct a species through resurrection would be through edited DNA. To go ahead and throw it back to Jurassic Park, the way it’s described in the movie isn’t far off. The edited DNA of an extinct species is inserted into the nucleus of a reproducing cell, which results in the resurrection of the species through the birth of a hybrid that has the DNA of both living and extinct organisms.

We said we hadn’t seen a company trying resurrection of species up until now… the company we’re talking about with that statement is Colossal Biosciences, the first company to apply CRISPR gene editing technology to de-extinction efforts. What does that really mean in down-to-earth terminology? It means these guys want to bring back animals that haven’t roamed the earth for a long time… like the Wolly Mammoth, the Dodo Bird, and the Tasmanian Tiger.

Colossal is the brainchild of entrepreneur Ben Lamm and geneticist George Church, Ph.D., and they just recently bagged $150 million in Series B funding toward their efforts. This brings their total funding since launch in September of 2021 to $225 million. The financing was led by United States Innovative Technology Fund (“USIT”), and included a slew of participants such as Victor Vescovo, In-Q-Tel, Animoca Brands, Peak 6, Breyer Capital, and Jazz Ventures.

What we stand to gain from the success of these experiments is manyfold. Firstly, this would be an impressive win for the U.S. if we could harness and wield this technology. We could possibly be pioneers in reestablishing entire species and ecosystems. That in itself is pretty impressive… but it’s much more than that. The science will ripple out across sectors, just begin to imagine the possible use cases beyond our current visions.

Agriculture, energy with biofuels, gene therapy, vaccine development. We could continue to synthesize and propagate the data from these activities at scale across the board to innovative out in all directions… but maybe we dream too big? Maybe not… the scientists working in this space anticipate the resurrection of the Woolly Mammoth by 2027, and it’s already 2023. Keep coming back, we’ll keep working to make sure you’re updated on the ever changing IPO landscape.