The CIA invested in technology to ‘resurrect’ mammoths

The most skeptical believe that it is impossible to revive mammoths. Still, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States believes that developing powerful tools for genetic manipulation could be worth the effort.

An interest in DNA sequencing

Reviving mammoths – the last species of which disappeared during Antiquity – is not a new idea. Since 2017, Russian researchers led by Sergey Zimov have already been working on the issue. The aim is to reintroduce woolly mammoths into the Pleistocene Park in Siberia and so reconstitute ecosystems that have now disappeared. Recently, a rather similar project has emerged in the United States, as explained by the media The Intercept in an article from September 28, 2022. This project is that of the biotechnology company Colossal Biosciences, which is headquartered in Dallas. According to the company’s founders, the goal is to ensure that the woolly mammoth can once again do “sound his cry across the tundra”.

In the investors department, we find a panel of very different companies and personalities: Paris Hilton (jet-setter), Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal) or the company Winklevoss Capital. More surprisingly, the list also contains the company In-Q-Tel, founded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). However, this venture capital company has previously shown interest in biotechnology and, more specifically, DNA sequencing.

Credits: Plyushkin / iStock

What objective for the CIA?

Colossal Biosciences scientists hope that a long work on DNA sequencing will make it possible to resuscitate the mammoth but also the thylacine – or Tasmanian wolf. However, In-Q-Tel published a blog post on September 20, 2022 in which it is discussed to contribute to the development of a technology that can be used to revive dead beings. The objective for the CIA therefore does not really seem to bring mammoths back to life, but to understand what is possible in terms of biotechnology and the bioeconomy.

You should also know that Colossal Biosciences has use of CRISPR genetic scissors, making it possible to rewrite the genetic material, a bit like optimizing a computer program. Remember that DNA is a chain of three billion molecules. CRISPR technology thus makes it possible to remove bad mutations and add good genes. In contrast, genetic scissors open the door to excess the consequences of which are difficult to imagine.

Despite the risks, CRISPR technology is already integrating into diverse and varied research : development of a treatment against HIV, boosting cognitive abilities, developing a treatment to restore sight, etc.

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