Dallas genetics firm lands $150 million to bring back extinct dodo bird

Colossal Biosciences, the Dallas-based de-extinction company pursuing projects to bring back species like woolly mammoths and Tasmanian Tigers, sets its sights on another extinct mammal: the Dodo.

The company has landed a $150 million investment to support this ambitious undertaking. Nearly a dozen investors contributed, including the Dallas-based private equity financier and adventurer Victor Vescovo, CIA-backed In-Q-Tel and the United States Innovative Technology Fund led by Billionaire Thomas Tull.

Other investors are Breyer Capital, Bob Nelsen, Animal Capital, Animoca Brands, Peak 6, BOLD Capital and Jazz Ventures.

“I feel like investors are excited to back us because we have a business that has obviously shown it can create a lot of value, but it can also have a big impact on conservation around the world. “, said Ben Lamm, CEO and co-founder of Colossal Biosciences.

Dallas entrepreneur Ben Lamm embarks on a new adventure: bringing back the woolly mammoth
Ben Lamm, CEO and co-founder of Colossal Biosciences
Ben Lamm, CEO and co-founder of Colossal Biosciences(John Davidson)

Colossal will launch an avian genomics group to pursue the deextinction of the Dodo bird. Dodos lived on the Indian island of Mauritius and weighed around 50 pounds, according to To discover magazine.

Flightless birds 3 feet tall died in 1662.

Birds can’t be cloned due to a technical hurdle — scientists don’t have access to birds’ eggs at the right time to use them for cloning, said Beth Shapiro, a member of Colossal’s science advisory board and chief paleogeneticist.

Shapiro’s research team at the University of California, Santa Cruz caught the eye last year for his discovery of what was described as a “fantastic specimen” of dodo DNA that included the final clue needed to complete the bird’s genome.

“If we can elevate the Dodo as a target to bring back, to potentially come up with strategies that help us believe we’re righting the wrongs that our ancestors actually did, then we can get more people excited about these technologies, and about extinctions in general,” said Shapiro, a molecular evolutionary biologist at UC Santa Cruz.

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According to Cornell Ornithology Lab, the global bird population has declined by more than 3 billion over the past 50 years. The IUCN Red List also classifies over 400 bird species as extinct, extinct in the wild, or critically endangered.

“We look for projects that can be interesting and iconic and where we can also have a reason to develop additional technologies,” Lamm said.

Scientists have made progress on the woolly mammoth and the Tasmanian tiger, otherwise known as the Thylacine.

The team working to bring the woolly mammoth includes 40 scientists across three labs that assess computational biology, cell and genomic engineering, stem cell biology, embryology, protein engineering, and assisted reproductive technologies.

Colossal Science Advisory Board Member and Chief Paleogeneticist Beth Shapiro on the hunt...
Colossal Science Advisory Board member and chief paleogeneticist Beth Shapiro searches for remains of dodo birds.(Colossal Biosciences)

He sequenced and made public the genomes of the African and Asian elephant, among other genetic discoveries. The company planned to use CRISPR, a gene-editing technology, to modify the genes of Asian elephants, the closest genetic relative of the extinct woolly mammoth. Scientists have identified more than 60 genes needed to create a functional woolly mammoth.

The The Thylacine team consists of 30 scientists who became the first to derive pluripotent stem cells, or cells that self-renew, from dunnarts, a narrow-footed marsupial, among other early-stage discoveries.

In September, Colossal has created a spin-off company, Form Bio, which focuses on computational life sciences. Form Bio’s technology can be used for more than de-escalation practices, such as drug discovery, gene and cell therapy, manufacturing efficiency and academic research.

Colossal previously raised $75 million since its launch in 2021, according to Crunchbase tracking site. It also collected an undisclosed investment from In-Q-Tel last year.

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