Let’s try not to think too much about what ends up happening in Jurassic Park and its aftermath, and let’s focus on reality. Dallas-based and not-at-all-fictional biotech firm Colossal Biosciences is counting “to see the woolly mammoth once again make its cry resound across the tundra”. In any case, this is what its founders George Church and Ben Lamm declare, who aim to revive extinct species.
Investors who also seem eager to hear the mammoth cry at night in the woods include PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Paris Hilton, Winklevoss Capital – founded by the Winklevoss brothers, one of whom end of the journey is narrated by David Fincher in The Social Network– but also… the CIA. Or rather In-Q-Tel.
In-Q-Tel is a new investor registered as a non-profit venture capital company (SCR, i.e. its shareholders are equity investors). A company founded by the CIA, which has already shown on several occasions a certain interest in biotechnologies and in particular DNA sequencing, points out The Intercept.
At Colossal Biosciences, it is hoped that extensive DNA sequencing work will bring two mammals back to life: the mammoth, therefore, but also the thylacine, also known as the “Tasmanian wolf”.
In a blog post published on In-Q-Tel’s website on September 20, two of the company’s masterminds justify the investment made: “From a strategic point of view, it’s less about mammoths and more about capabilities.”
In other words, In-Q-Tel (therefore the CIA) has the primary goal of contributing to the development of technology that can be used to revive dead beings. The beings in question matter less. “It is important for all facets of our government to develop [la biotechnologie et la bioéconomie] and to understand what is on the order of the possible”, explains Ben Lamm to The Intercept.
Colossal Biosciences uses CRISPR technology: it is gene editing, whose most popular French translation is “targeted genome engineering”. The idea is to rewrite the genetic material in such a way as to deliver a version that is as ideal as possible, like trying to optimize a computer program.
“These are genetic scissors”sums up Robert Klitzman, a specialist in bioethics at Columbia University and a great name in genetic engineering. “You take DNA, which is a string three billion molecules long, take pieces out of it and replace them with others. You can skip bad mutations and add good genes, but those genetic scissors can also take away too much.” In other words: everything is possible, but beware of excesses.