CIA allegedly invested in powerful genetic mutation, woolly mammoth resurrection technology

The embrace of this technology will allow U.S. agencies to read, write, and edit genetic material.
Baba Tamim
Illustration: A wooly mammoth frozen in a block of ice.
Illustration: A wooly mammoth frozen in a block of ice.

TheCrimsonMonkey/iStock 

The U.S. intelligence agency may have just "invested" in a woolly mammoth resurrection technology through its venture capital firm.

The CIA has always pursued technologies related to intelligence and weapons but recently has shown a greater interest in DNA sequencing, according to a report published by The Intercept on Wednesday.

Colossal Biosciences is a biotechnology firm with headquarters in Dallas. Peter Thiel, Tony Robbins, Paris Hilton, Winklevoss Capital, and the CIA are just some well-known backers and investors that founders George Church and Ben Lamm have already accumulated.

"In-Q-Tel, its new investor, is registered as a non-profit venture capital firm funded by the CIA. On its surface, the group funds technology startups with the potential to safeguard national security," read the report.

"In addition to its long-standing pursuit of intelligence and weapons technologies, the CIA outfit has lately displayed an increased interest in biotechnology and particularly DNA sequencing."

Colossal claims it plans to employ cutting-edge genetic sequencing CRISPR to bring back two extinct creatures, including the gigantic ice age mammoth and the Tasmanian tiger, a medium-sized marsupial that became extinct less than a century ago.

In-Q-Tel blog post

"Why the interest in a company like Colossal, which was founded with a mission to 'de-extinct' the woolly mammoth and other species? Strategically, it's less about the mammoths and more about the capability," reads an In-Q-Tel blog post published on September 22.

"The next wave of progress in synbio will lead to advances in our ability to shape both form and function in organisms at the macroscopic level. Solving the challenges that must be overcome in engineering animals and plants."

"Biotechnology and the broader bioeconomy are critical for humanity to further develop. It is important for all facets of our government to develop them and have an understanding of what is possible," Ben Lamm, Colossal Biosciences co-founder, told The Intercept.

A spokesperson for Lamm stressed that "while Thiel provided Church with $100,000 in funding to launch the woolly mammoth project that became Colossal, he is not a stakeholder like Robbins, Hilton, Winklevoss Capital, and In-Q-Tel." noted the report.

CRISPR - The genetic scissors

Colossal employs CRISPR gene editing, a technique for genetic engineering based on a particular kind of naturally occurring DNA sequence.

The gene editing method was created to enable users to remove undesirable genes and program a genetic code that is more suitable.

"CRISPR is the use of genetic scissors," Robert Klitzman, a bioethicist at Columbia University and a prominent voice of caution on genetic engineering, told The Intercept.

"You're going into DNA, which is a 3-billion-molecule-long chain, and clipping some of it out and replacing it. You can clip out bad mutations and put in good genes, but these editing scissors can also take out too much."

The embrace of this technology, according to In-Q-Tel's blog post, will help allow U.S. government agencies to read, write, and edit genetic material and, importantly, to steer global biological phenomena that impact "nation-to-nation competition" while enabling the United States "to help set the ethical, as well as the technological, standards" for its use.

By adopting this technology, the U.S. will be able to "help set the ethical, as well as the technological, standards" for its use, according to a blog post by In-Q-Tel.

"The embrace of this technology, according to In-Q-Tel's blog post, will help allow U.S. government agencies to read, write, and edit genetic material, and, importantly, to steer global biological phenomena that impact 'nation-to-nation competition,'" said The Intercept report quoting the blog post.

U.S executive order

On September 12, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on biotechnology and biomanufacturing. The Biden administration gave notice that it prioritized related advancements.

In addition to encouraging public-private cooperation, the order includes instructions to strengthen biological risk management, increase the availability of products based on bioenergy, and "engage the international community to enhance biotechnology R&D cooperation in a way that is consistent with United States principles and values."

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