The CIA just invested in the technology of the resurrection of the woolly mammoth

fast forward The climate emergency is making the planet hotter than ever, Dallas-based biotech company Colossal Biosciences has a vision: “To see the thunder of Woolly Mammoth on the tundra once again.” Founders George Church and Ben Lamm have already put together an impressive list of high-profile investors, including Peter Thiel, Tony Robbins, Paris Hilton, Winklevoss Capital — and according to the public. a file Its venture capital arm, the CIA, was launched this month.

Colossal says it hopes to use advanced genetic sequencing to revive two extinct mammals — not only the Ice Age giant mammoth, but also the medium-sized marsupial known as the Tasmanian tiger, or Tasmanian tiger, that died less than a century ago. on it websitethe company pledges: “By combining genetics with exploratory work, we seek to stimulate the heartbeat of nature’s ancestors.”

In-Q-Tel, its new investor, is registered as a non-profit venture capital firm funded by the CIA. On the surface, the group funds tech startups with the ability to protect national security. In addition to its long-standing pursuit of intelligence and weapons technologies, the CIA recently demonstrated Increased interest in biotechnology Especially the DNA sequence.

Why the interest in a company like Colossal, which was founded with the goal of ‘eliminating the extinction’ of woolly mammoths and other species? Reads In-Q-Tel Blog post Posted on September 22nd. “Strategically speaking, it’s not so much about mammoths as it is about ability.”

Colossal uses CRISPR gene-editing technology, a genetic engineering method based on a naturally occurring type of DNA sequence. CRISPR sequences are found on their own in some bacterial cells and act as an immune defense system, allowing the cell to detect and eradicate viral material that is trying to invade. The eponymous gene-editing technology has been developed to work the same way, allowing users to snip out unwanted genes and program a more perfect version of the genetic code.

“The CRISPR technology is the use of genetic scissors,” Robert Klitzman, a bioethicist at Columbia University and a prominent voice on the warning about genetic engineering, told The Intercept. “You’re going to the DNA, which is a 3 billion strand of molecules, and you cut some of it out and replace it. You can cut out the bad mutations and put in the good genes, but these modification scissors can also remove a lot.”

Adoption of this technology, according to the In-Q-Tel blog, will help allow US government agencies to read, write, and modify genetic material, and most importantly, direct global biological phenomena that affect “international competition” while allowing the United States to help set ethical standards. and technology” to use.

In-Q-Tel and Colossal did not respond to The Intercept’s requests for comment.

In recent years, the venture’s portfolio has expanded to include Ginkgo Bioworks, a bioengineering startup focused on manufacturing bacteria for biofuels and other industrial uses; Claremont BioSolutions, a company that produces DNA sequencers; Biomatrica and T2 Biosystems, two manufacturers of DNA test components; and Metabiota, an AI-powered infectious disease mapping and risk analysis database. As The Intercept reported in 2016, In-Q-Tel has also invested in Clearista, a skincare brand that removes a thin layer of outer skin to reveal a fresher face underneath — and Allow DNA to be collected from scraped skin cells.

President Joe Biden’s administration indicated prioritizing related progress earlier this month, when Biden signed executive order On biotechnology and biomanufacturing. The order includes directives to stimulate public-private sector cooperation, enhance biorisk management, expand bioenergy-based products, and “engage the international community to advance biotechnology research and development cooperation in a manner consistent with United States principles and values.”

government inclination Controversial biotechnology long before the Biden administration. In 2001, The New York Times Investigation It found that US defense agencies under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton continued to test biological weapons, despite a 1972 international treaty banning them. In 2011, The Guardian open That the CIA under President Barack Obama orchestrated a fake hepatitis C vaccination campaign in Pakistan that sought to identify Osama bin Laden’s family members through incompatible DNA collection, which eventually led the agency to Prepare Stop false immunization campaigns.

CIA Labs, a 2020 initiative overseen by CIA Director Donald Trump, Gina Haspel – notorious for the administration Thailand’s torture lab It follows a similar model to In-Q-Tel’s. The program created a research network to incubate the best talent and technology for use across US defense agencies, while at the same time allowing participating CIA officers to personal profit of their research and patents.

In-Q-Tel board members are allowed to sit on the boards of companies the company invests in, raising ethical concerns about how nonprofits choose companies to support them with government dollars. A 2016 Wall Street Journal investigation found that nearly half of NQtel’s board members are connected companies where invested.

The size of In-Q-Tel’s stake in Colossal won’t be known until the nonprofit releases its financial statements next year, but the investment may provide a blessing on reputation alone: ​​In-Q-Tel has claimed That every dollar you invest in a business attracts another 15 other investors.

Colossal’s founders, Lamm and Church, represent the business and science minds of the project, respectively. Lam, a self-proclaimed “chain tech entrepreneur,” founded his first company as an undergraduate, then turned to mobile apps and artificial intelligence before helping start Colossal.

Church – a geneticist at Harvard University, Genome-based dating app Insight and Forecast Jeffrey Epstein Funding Recipient – Suggest the revival of previously extinct species. Speaking to Der Spiegel in 2013Church proposed the resurrection of Neanderthals – an idea that was met with controversy because it required a technology capable of human cloning.

“We can clone all kinds of mammals, so it’s very likely that we can clone a human,” Church said. “Why can’t we be able to do that?” When the inquisitor reminded him of a ban on human cloning, Church said, “By the way, laws can change.”

Even when the methods used to eradicate extinction are legal, many scientists question their promise. in 2017 paper For Nature Ecology & Evolution, a group of biologists from Canada, Australia and New Zealand found that “[s]Waiting for limited resources on extinction could result in a net loss of biodiversity.”

“De-extinction is a science fiction,” said Jeremy Austin, professor at the University of Adelaide and director of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA. Tell The Sydney Morning Herald over the summer, when Colossal pledged $10 million to the University of Melbourne for the Tasmanian tiger project. “It’s very clear to people like me that getting rid of the thylacine or mammoth to extinction has more to do with media attention to scientists than to serious science.”

It remains to be seen if Colossal, backed by In-Q-Tel, can deliver on its promises. It is unclear what exactly the intelligence world would benefit from using CRISPR. But perhaps the CIA shares the company’s altruistic, albeit vague motive: “To advance the economics of biology and healing through genetics. To make humanity more humane. And to awaken the lost wilds of Earth. So we and our planet can breathe easy.”

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