Following massive progress on the Woolly Mammoth and Tasmanian tiger, Colossal launches Avian Genomics Group to continue groundbreaking de-extinction pursuits
DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Colossal Biosciences, the world’s first de-extinction company, has today announced an oversubscribed $150M Series B financing led by United States Innovative Technology Fund (“USIT”), with participation from Breyer Capital, WestRiver Group, Bob Nelsen, Animal Capital, Victor Vescovo, In-Q-Tel, Animoca Brands, Peak 6, BOLD Capital, and Jazz Ventures, among others.
Since launching in September 2021, Colossal has raised $225M in total funding. Colossal will leverage this latest infusion of capital to continue to advance genetic engineering and pioneer new revolutionary software, wetware and hardware solutions, all of which have applications to de-extinction, conservation and human healthcare.
“The World Wildlife Fund found that in the last 50 years, Earth’s wildlife populations have plunged by an average of 69% at the hands of mankind,” said Ben Lamm, co-founder and CEO of Colossal. “By gathering the smartest minds across investing, genomics, conservation and synthetic biology, we have the opportunity to reverse human-inflicted biodiversity loss while developing technologies for both conservation and human healthcare. We are honored to be backed by a dedicated and diverse group of investors and are excited to work to bring additional species back to the planet.”
As part of its Series B, Colossal has also announced the launch of its Avian Genomics Group, which will pursue the de-extinction of the iconic Dodo, a bird species that was wiped out of its native ecosystem, Mauritius, as a direct result of human settlement and ecosystem competition in 1662. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the world’s bird population has declined by more than 3 billion in the last 50 years. The IUCN Red List also now categorizes more than 400 bird species as either extinct, extinct in the wild, or critically endangered. Colossal is on a mission to reverse these staggering statistics through genetic rescue techniques and its de-extinction toolkit.
Beth Shapiro Ph.D., Colossal Scientific Advisory Board member and lead paleogeneticist noted, “The Dodo is a prime example of a species that became extinct because we – people – made it impossible for them to survive in their native habitat. Having focused on genetic advancements in ancient DNA for my entire career and as the first to fully sequence the Dodo’s genome, I am thrilled to collaborate with Colossal and the people of Mauritius on the de-extinction and eventual re-wilding of the Dodo. I particularly look forward to furthering genetic rescue tools focused on birds and avian conservation.”
Innovations in synthetic biology will not only improve the state of the planet, but also further the U.S. high tech advantage. Colossal’s use of various gene editing technologies will make waves across sectors – in agriculture with new biofuels and preserving biodiversity, as well as in human health through improved gene therapy and vaccine development.
“Dr. George Church and Colossal’s deep work in genomics is creating some of the most cutting-edge advancements in biotech,” said USIT Chairman Thomas Tull. “Their innovative technology has important applications for scientific discoveries, including biomedicine, and we look forward to supporting this crucial work.”
The Series B funding and Avian Genomics Group launch come less than a year and a half after Colossal announced plans to de-extinct two essential species: the Woolly Mammoth and the Tasmanian tiger. The financing also comes on the heels of Colossal’s first technology spinout, Form Bio, a software platform which entered the market with a $30M Series A.
“Colossal is a new symbol for hope in species preservation and conservation,” said Colossal investor and special advisor, Erik Anderson, Founder and CEO of WestRiver Group. “Their de-extinction achievements are making it possible for ecosystems to return to their intended state, which is an incredible breakthrough in biodiversity. I’m excited to be advising Ben Lamm and investing in a company that is positioning our planet for a brighter future.”
Update on De-Extinction Journey:
The Woolly Mammoth de-extinction team now includes over 40 talented scientists and three laboratories to innovate across computational biology, cell and genome engineering, stem cell biology, embryology, protein engineering and assisted reproductive technologies. Colossal and its collaborators have accomplished the following:
- Sequenced and publicized two of the highest quality reference genomes to date for the African and Asian elephant
- Became the first to artificially derive pluripotent stem cells in both Asian and African elephants, which are essential for in-vitro embryogenesis and gametogenesis
- Refined and verified Colossal’s list of identified mammoth-specific genes as targets for editing through its computations biology spin-out, Form Bio
- Built a leading embryology lab for endangered species work and started the process of refining protocols for elephant somatic cell nuclear transfer process
- Parallelized multiplex editing workflows to generate over 20 edits in high impact genes associated with core cold adaptation mammoth phenotypes
- Announced efforts to eradicate EEHV in elephants in partnership with Paul Ling Ph.D. and Baylor College of Medicine. Also, Colossal launched its partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks for the Mammoth in the Classroom initiative, the first-of-its-kind children’s education and research project focused on mammoths in Alaska
“Methods for reading and writing DNA are helping make Earth a healthier place to live, medically and environmentally,” noted George Church, a world-renowned geneticist and co-founder of Colossal. He added, “Genetic technologies are already protecting us and our food sources from infectious and inherited diseases. A society embracing endangered and extinct gene variants is one poised to address many practical obstacles and opportunities in carbon sequestration, nutrition, and new materials. I am pleased with our company’s progress across multiple vertebrate species.”
The Colossal Thylacine team, now consisting of 30 dedicated scientists, has already achieved great progress:
- Became the first to derive pluripotent stem cells in dunnarts, propelling the company on the path towards advanced in-vitro functional workflows as well as establishing state of the art conservation and genomic preservation capabilities in all marsupials
- Established multiplex editing pipelines in dunnart fibroblast cell lines for the first identified edits which provide the framework for the Thylacine hypercarnivore craniofacial morphology
- Prototyped artificial ex-utero development for early-stage marsupial gestation
“The Colossal teams in the United States and Australia are making incredible progress to de-extinct the Thylacine,” said Andrew Pask Ph.D., Colossal Scientific Advisory Board member and Thylacine lead. “The work is massively accelerated and currently ahead of our internal schedules. The work we are doing to bring back the Thylacine will not only be a huge step in restoring a key species, but it will be instrumental in the next generation of marsupial conservation efforts.”
Furthermore, Colossal has recently launched its Conservation Advisory Board adding incredibly passionate world leaders across conservation, including Forrest Galante, Virginia Riddle Pearson, Iain Douglas-Hamilton Ph.D., Former Lt. Governor of Alaska Honorable Mead Treadwell, permafrost researcher Jim Coates, Alaska’s Head of Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang, and Former Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Honorable Aurelia Skipwith, J.D. To further conservation research programs, Colossal has also established partnerships with WildArk, Aussie Ark, Save the Elephants, Elephant Havens, The International Elephant Foundation, Re:Wild, and the AZA’s SAFE.
Colossal has similarly expanded its prestigious Scientific Advisory Board to include world-leading scientist Christopher E. Mason Ph.D., Doris A. Taylor Ph.D., Rachel J. O’Neill Ph.D., Austin Gallagher Ph.D., Tom Gilbert Ph.D., Mike McGrew Ph.D., Matthew Wooller Ph.D., and Duane Froese Ph.D.
Follow along on Colossal’s journey here: www.colossal.com
Colossal was founded by emerging technology and software entrepreneur Ben Lamm and world-renowned geneticist and serial biotech entrepreneur George Church, Ph.D., and is the first to apply CRISPR technology for the purposes of species de-extinction. Colossal creates innovative technologies for species restoration, critically endangered species protection and the repopulation of critical ecosystems that support the continuation of life on Earth. Colossal is accepting humanity’s duty to restore Earth to a healthier state, while also solving for the future economies and biological necessities of the human condition through cutting-edge science and technologies. To follow along, please visit: www.colossal.com
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