Colossal Announces Expansion of Ancient DNA Academic Research Projects with $7.5M in New Investments, and Issues Call to Researchers

Apr. 15, 2024

With the announcement of a $500,000 donation to the UCSC Genomics Institute in support of the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab, Colossal continues to expand its ancient DNA academic collaborations to drive understanding of climate migration, evolutionary modification, and ecosystem redundancy.

DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Colossal, the world’s first de-extinction company, today announces progress on its ancient DNA agenda and a go-forward vision to enable critical new discoveries from ancient DNA through its academic partners that may prove invaluable to how we navigate our changing climate. Dr. Beth Shapiro, Colossal’s Chief Science Officer and world-renowned ancient DNA expert, HHMI Investigator, and MacArthur award winner, will lead Colossal’s ancient DNA research and oversee the distribution of funding, and development of new partnerships and initiatives for the global community. Under her leadership, the company will scale its current work, and continue to bring the systematically underfunded and fractured ancient DNA community together to speed up the pace of scientific discovery and breakthroughs. This involves implementing over $7.5M in newly committed funding to Colossal academic partners in 2024, onboarding more ancient DNA researchers, growing a larger network of ancient DNA university partners, and deploying a technology HUB for ancient DNA research.

“Ancient DNA is a discovery-based science that offers foundational understanding of how species, communities, and ecosystems have evolved over millions of years of habitat and climate change,” said Dr. Beth Shapiro, Chief Science Officer at Colossal. “By studying ancient DNA we can learn how organisms adapt to climate change, how they reshuffle and reorganize as habitats shift, and how to create resilient ecosystems in the future. The past can be thought of as a completed evolutionary experiment that can inform how we decide to manage ecosystems today and into the future. We believe that to support a biodiverse future, we must facilitate ancient DNA research across the world. Ancient DNA is the world’s discovery sandbox and it holds millions of yet to be discovered secrets that we can use to improve our planet’s future.”

Ancient DNA–which is DNA preserved in the remains of plants and animals that used to be alive–is core to many of Colossal’s projects. The company routinely works with universities, field researchers, and Dr. Shapiro to extract ancient DNA from animals as diverse as woolly mammoths, thylacines, and birds like the solitaire–an extinct pigeon closely related to the dodo. These connections to ancient DNA research teams helped illustrate both how powerful ancient DNA is to uncovering evolutionary innovations lost to extinction and how presently underfunded and fractured the field is, limiting the field’s ability to reach its full potential.

As a result, Colossal has been making investments and forging technology partnerships with university partners all over the world, including Stockholm University, the University of Potsdam, the University of California Santa Cruz, the University of Alaska, McMaster University, University of Copenhagen, and Rowan University, among others. These ancient DNA research investments and partnerships in species as diverse as the blue bucks, long-horned bison, Columbian mammoths, dire wolves, giant sloths, great auks, megaloceros (also known as the “Irish elk”), cave hyenas, moas, saber-toothed cats, woolly rhinoceroses, mastodons, tooth-billed pigeons, American cheetahs, giant short-faced bears, and Steller’s sea cows, were executed under the belief that the more species that are studied, the more likely researchers are to uncover evolutionary innovations that could help animals adapt during today’s climate crisis.

"With the support of Colossal, we are pushing the boundaries of molecular paleontology, unlocking ancient proteins and other biomolecules from ancient fossils. This innovative approach opens up new avenues of investigation, allowing us to study extinct creatures much like biologists study present-day animals. Earth has experienced five mass extinctions, and with human activity driving an unfolding sixth extinction, it's imperative that we draw lessons from the past to safeguard our future,” said Kenneth Lacovara, Ph.D., Paleontologist and Executive Director of the Edelman Fossil Park & Museum at Rowan University, awardee of the legendary Explorer’s Club Medal, an advocate for children’s education and leading extinction researcher.

“Ancient DNA is the most complicated DNA on the planet. I think about it as if we are trying to put together a puzzle, but we don’t know exactly what the puzzle looks like or how many pieces are missing. When breakthrough research occurs, it can cascade to improve genomics research for everyone on the planet while really stress testing some of the AI tools that Colossal is building,” said Colossal co-founder and CEO, Ben Lamm. “We want to help the researchers who are chasing breakthrough discoveries because we believe that attempting to do breakthrough science is what really drives true step function scientific change.”

Initial Results from Colossal Supported Ancient DNA Research Is Proving Out

Colossal’s investments in ancient DNA have already begun to pay off. Among the new insights from this funded ancient DNA research are novel solutions related to algorithm development for both comparative genomics and DNA synthesis, novel approaches to editing and de-extincting genes, as well as discovery of regions of genomes that are evolving at an accelerated pace. Some of the initial findings are also uncovering new clues as to how populations decline to extinction, and how some species could adapt to future climate change.

“As the field of ancient DNA transitions from simply teaching us about the past, to helping us conserve the present and guide the future, it is imperative that we are able to generate both high coverage genomes of extremely rare or lost species, and have access to chromosome scale assemblies of their living relatives. In this regard, funding provided by Colossal in support of our research has been critical. For example, through enabling us to generate and release publically a high quality reference genome of the fallow deer, we are now able to better study the evolution and extinction of the giant deer Megaloceros. And through supporting the sequencing of a high coverage genome from a museum sample of the saola – one of the world’s rarest mammals – we are able to contribute to ongoing efforts to both monitor for any individuals that are left in the forests of Vietnam, as well as develop rescue plans should any remaining individuals be found,” said Tom Gilbert, Director of the University of Copenhagen's Center for Evolutionary Hologenomics.

“Colossal has made fantastic contributions to basic science by funding genome sequencing of many extinct species. From a scientific perspective, these genomes have helped us better understand which genes made these species different from their living relatives. Moreover, by investigating their genetic diversity, we are also able to better understand the extinction process and how the final population declines were impacted by, for example, human actions and environmental change,” said Love Dalén, Professor in Evolutionary Genomics, Stockholm University.

"Colossal’s unwavering and generous support has accelerated our deep time genomic research into the iconic mammoths that made North America their home, the giant Columbian mammoth of the continental US and the miniature Pygmy mammoth of the Channel Islands, but also the stranger, but fascinating, giant ground sloths, glyptodonts and pampatheres," said Hendrik Poinar, Principal Investigator and Professor at McMaster University.

"I have worked in ancient DNA for more than two decades, and obtaining funding for such discovery-based projects is always a challenge, especially for less well-known species, such as the recently extinct South-African bluebuck, or the straight-tusked elephant, one of the largest land mammals. Thanks to funding from Colossal, we were able to implement genome sequencing projects on both these and other extinct species and learn more both about the biology of these species and the processes leading to animal extinctions. Since ancient DNA research has been largely centered on human remains and domesticated species for quite a while now, funding from Colossal is a welcome boost for ancient DNA projects on the numerous extinct animal species,” said Dr. Michael Hofreiter, Professor for Evolutionary Adaptive Genomics, Institute for Biochemistry and Biology at the University of Potsdam.

The success in the labs of Dr. Dalén, Dr. Poinar, Dr. Hofreiter, and Dr. Gilbert is replicated in other partners' research. Colossal anticipates that the research into ancient extinctions, adaptation, and reshuffling of animal species will provide insights useful for global conservation efforts. In particular, Colossal’s Chief Animal Officer Matt James and Chief Science Officer Beth Shapiro will work closely to ensure that findings across ancient animal DNA dovetail with the company’s conservation efforts with extant and endangered species. In that way, Colossal looks forward to bridging the knowledge gaps between the discoveries of ancient DNA and conservation.

Colossal will also continue to establish new partnerships with research teams around the world that are doing groundbreaking ancient DNA science.

"Hyenas don't get the attention they deserve. Most people don't even know that hyenas lived in Europe and Asia until the end of the last ice age. I was very excited when Colossal offered to step up and support my research on the extinct cave hyena through genome sequencing funding when nobody else would,” said Michael Westbury, Assistant Professor, University of Copenhagen.

Announcing $500k Investment and New Partnerships in Ancient DNA Research

As part of Colossal’s planned expansion in the field of supporting external ancient DNA, Colossal had already committed a $500,000 donation to the UCSC Genomics Institute in support of the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab, which will support students and research beginning this summer.

"We are grateful to Colossal for its donation in support of paleogenomics research at the Genomics Institute, UC Santa Cruz. The gift from Colossal enables our talented researchers and students to pursue discovery-based science that has real-world impact. This research partnership between academia and industry illustrates how goals can be mutually aligned and both can work together to realize the ultimate potential of discovery,” said Lauren Linton, Executive Director, UCSC Genomics Institute.

With this investment, Colossal will have pledged over $7.5 million dollars to academic institutions in 2024, which Colossal believes is an impactful investment into a field of research that has consistently been underfunded in the academic realm.

Among the forthcoming projects is also a substantial donation to the Adopt a Mammoth project at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, which aims to radiocarbon date 1,500 mammoth remains in the University of Alaska Museum of the North’s collection, and provide educational resources for Alaskan students, as well as those projects outlined above.

“I have been lucky enough to have worked with Beth for many years. She is a world leader in advancing and applying ancient DNA techniques. We have studied a wide range of fossil critters together, including mammoths. I’m thrilled for both Beth and Colossal - this is such a great move - game changing! Colossal is actively advancing our research of mammoth fossils here in Alaska by supporting our ability to radiocarbon date and examine ancient DNA in specimens housed here at the world class University of Alaska Museum of the North. Colossal’s investment into our research is adding data and tremendous value to these mammoth fossil treasures. It’s such an exciting time for Colossal, ” said Matthew Wooller, Director of Alaska Stable Isotope Facility and Director of the Alaska Quaternary Center, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

If you are an ancient DNA researcher interested in joining Colossal’s upcoming ancient DNA technology HUB, please reach out We will share more details with those that express interest.

For more information on Colossal’s ancient DNA efforts, please


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:


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