If they can make a dunnart cell with enough thylacine DNA, the next step is to use cloning to try to create an embryo—and, eventually, an animal. Another project involves trying to turn Asian elephants into something resembling a woolly mammoth, by adding genes for cold resistance and thick red hair.
There are no resurrected species yet, of course. Ord’s job as “director, species restoration” is really about an imagined future, in which a high-tech combination of DNA technology, stem-cell research, gene editing, and artificial wombs could lead not just to the resurrection of lost species, but also to the preservation of those close to disappearing.
Ord got into the job after trying her hand at lab research, a job in a hospital, and work for a software company. She says it’s a natural fit. She grew up with many pets and watched a lot of Discovery Channel and National Geographic programs. “I have always loved animals,” she says.
It’s certain Colossal is as much Hollywood production as it is hard science. Its financial backers include investor and entertainment mogul Thomas Tull and Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker, and its ideas originate in the laboratory of the outspoken gene scientist George Church, who has been promoting mammoth resurrection in the media since 2013, though with few results yet.
Ord’s job is similarly composed: part communication, part science, and part futurism. And what if the company succeeds in re-creating the thylacine—or something close to it? Ord says Colossal might turn a profit by selling tickets to see it.