Bringing the Extinct Back to Life: Gene Editing Company Sets Sights on the Dodo

Colossal Biosciences, a genetic engineering company, has announced $150 million in Series B funding for their latest project – the resurrection of the extinct Dodo bird. The company, which was founded in 2021 by some of the world’s leading experts in genomics, aims to make de-extinction a reality in the near future. They have already begun work on bringing back the woolly mammoth and the Tasmanian tiger, and now they will use the latest funding to bring the iconic Dodo back to life.

The dodo, a flightless bird, lived on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius and was 1 meter tall, weighing up to 17.5 kg. The bird became extinct in just a matter of decades after Dutch settlers arrived on the island and began hunting the bird and destroying its habitat, while also introducing many invasive species, including cats, dogs, monkeys, pigs, and rats. The settlers’ actions had a major impact on the island and its ecosystems, and the Dodo’s extinction brought attention to the previously unrecognized problem of human involvement in the disappearance of entire species.

Colossal Biosciences intends to use its latest funding to create a new Avian Genomics Group to research ways of bringing the Dodo back to life, and potentially many other bird species too. The closest known relative to the Dodo is the Nicobar pigeon, and the scientists at Colossal will work with pigeon eggs and genetic material that can be tweaked to mirror the Dodo’s key traits. This research could not only lead to the resurrection of the Dodo but also improve genetic engineering and provide revolutionary solutions for conservation and human healthcare.

Beth Shapiro, PhD, a scientific advisory board member and lead paleogeneticist at Colossal, said, “The Dodo is a prime example of a species that became extinct because of human actions. I am thrilled to collaborate with Colossal and the people of Mauritius on the de-extinction and eventual re-wilding of the dodo, and I look forward to furthering genetic rescue tools focused on birds and avian conservation.”

George Church, world-renowned geneticist and co-founder of Colossal, added, “Methods for reading and writing DNA are helping make Earth a healthier place to live, medically and environmentally. 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.”

It is a fascinating and ambitious project, and if successful, the resurrection of the Dodo could mark a significant step forward in the field of genetic engineering. The loss of such a unique bird so soon after its discovery has long been a symbol of extinction and obsolescence, but if Colossal Biosciences is successful, the old phrase “dead as a dodo” may soon be a thing of the past. The future of de-extinction is exciting, and it will be interesting to see what other extinct species Colossal Biosciences and other companies will bring back to life in the future.