The Hamilton Spectator
Bring back dodo? Ambitious plan draws investors, critics
Colossal Biosciences looks to revive the extinct flightless bird
WASHINGTON The dodo bird isn’t coming back any time soon. Nor is the woolly mammoth. But a company working on technologies to bring back extinct species has attracted more investors, while other scientists are skeptical such feats are possible or a good idea.
Colossal Biosciences first announced its ambitious plan to revive the woolly mammoth two years ago, and on Tuesday said it wanted to bring back the dodo bird, too.
“The dodo is a symbol of manmade extinction,” said Ben Lamm, a serial entrepreneur and cofounder and CEO of Colossal. The company has formed a division to focus on bird-related genetic technologies.
The last dodo, a flightless bird about the size of a turkey, was killed in 1681 on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
The Dallas company, which launched in 2021, also announced Tuesday it had raised an additional $150 million (U.S.) in funding. To date, it has raised $225 million from wide-ranging investors that include United States Innovative Technology Fund, Breyer Capital and In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm that invests in technology.
The prospect of bringing the dodo back isn’t expected to directly make money, said Lamm. But the genetic tools and equipment that the company develops to try to do it may have other uses, including for human health care, he said.
For example, Colossal is now testing tools to tweak several parts of the genome simultaneously. It’s also working on technologies for what is sometimes called an “artificial womb,” he said.
The dodo’s closest living relative is the Nicobar pigeon, said Beth Shapiro, a molecular biologist on Colossal’s scientific advisory board, who has been studying the extinct bird for two decades. Shapiro is paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also supports The Associated Press’s Health and Science Department.
Her team plans to study DNA differences between the Nicobar pigeon and the dodo to understand “what are the genes that really make a dodo a dodo,” she said.