The CIA's venture capital firm just backed Woolly Mammoth cloning

The Intercept reports that In-Q-Tel, a CIA-funded nonprofit venture capital firm, just joined the likes of Peter Thiel and Winklevoss Capital in throwing money at Colossla Biosciences, a company committed to cloning Woolly Mammoths.

Of course, as some people are quick to point out, even the best case use of this technology won't lead to any wonderful woolly mammoth petting zoos:

(I personally think we should stop body-shaming fat hair elephants, but I digress)

So why the sudden interest in Ice Age mammals and moisturizing lotion? Well, why the fuck not? The CIA has always been interested in weird pseudo-science shit. Hell, In-Q-Tel also invests in skincare products. The Woolly Mammoths, though, might serve a more specific purpose: DNA data collection, courtesy of CRISPR-Cas9. From The Intercept:

Colossal uses CRISPR gene editing, a method of genetic engineering based on a naturally occurring type of DNA sequence. CRISPR sequences present on their own in some bacterial cells and act as an immune defense system, allowing the cell to detect and excise viral material that tries to invade. The eponymous gene editing technique was developed to function the same way, allowing users to snip unwanted genes and program a more ideal version of the genetic code.


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.

In-Q-Tel did not respond to The Intercept's requests for comment.

There's a lot more fascinating stuff — both about CRISPR, and the CIA's broader interest in controversial biotechnologies — in the Intercept piece.

The CIA just invested in Woolly Mammoth resurrection technology [Daniel Boguslaw / The Intercept]

Image: Flying Puffin / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 2.0)