Colossal Biosciences and the Vertebrate Genomes Project Will Preserve the Genetic Code of all Endangered Elephant Species Through Genomic Sequencing

For the first time, all three living elephant species – Asian Elephant, African Elephant and Forest Elephant – will be genetically rescued in landmark species de-extinction effort

NEW YORK--()--Colossal and the Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP) embark on the world’s first effort to obtain the genetic code of the existing elephant lineage, of which all three species are endangered. As part of the collaboration, Colossal will fund the VGP efforts to sequence, assemble, and annotate the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), African elephant (Loxodonta africana), and Forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) genomes to genetically preserve the species for future generations. These will be high-quality genome assemblies, complete and error-free as much as possible, so that all valuable parts of the genomes are captured for de-extinction efforts. Following the VGP principles, these genomes will be made publicly available to be used for research without use restrictions.

Colossal announced last month it will be the first to implement a working model of de-extinction to apply advanced gene-editing techniques to restore the woolly mammoth, which shares 99.6 percent of its DNA with the Asian elephant, to the Arctic tundra. To achieve this goal, in addition to the high-quality reference genomes, Colossal aims to produce population sequence data on 100 African and Asian elephants to record and understand extant elephantid population genomes. The Asian and African elephants are classified as Endangered, and the Forest elephant is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

“The VGP has already been successful in genetically backing up species and has demonstrated how vital this process is. By sequencing these three elephant species, we will genetically preserve the entire order. Together we can safeguard the genetic lineage of elephants to protect biodiversity and restore healthy ecosystems, which is part of Colossal’s mission of thoughtful disruptive conservation,” said Ben Lamm, Colossal Co-Founder and CEO.

“There is not enough focus on genomic data in conservation efforts , including with high-quality reference genomes. It is critical that we act with urgency as we aim to genetically preserve and protect endangered species, before we lose them forever. With Colossal’s help, we can rapidly advance efforts starting with elephants,” said Erich Jarvis, PhD, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Professor at The Rockefeller University. Dr. Jarvis is Chair of the Vertebrate Genomes Project.

This is the first of many species preservation and extension efforts for Colossal. In addition to funding previously non-sequenced species, in collaboration with the VGP and others, Colossal will pursue and fund the sequencing and resequencing of additional individuals from select species categorized as “Endangered” or “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN, with the goal of preserving the genetic biodiversity found in wild populations.


Colossal is a breakthrough bioscience and genetic engineering company that builds radical new technologies to advance the field of genomics. Colossal creates disruptive technologies for extinct species restoration, critically endangered species protection and the repopulation of critical ecosystems that support the continuation of life on Earth. The company is the first to apply CRISPR technology for the purposes of species de-extinction, beginning with the woolly mammoth. 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:


The Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP) aims to sequence high-quality reference genomes for all living 70,000+ vertebrates (i.e., mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and fishes), and to use those genomes to address fundamental questions in biology, disease, and conservation. This includes using to the genomes to identify species most genetically at risk of extinction, and to preserve the genetic information of life. The VGP produces near error-free and complete chromosomal-level genome assemblies, and has become a model for the broader Earth Biogenome Project, to produce high-quality assemblies of all eukaryotic species. To date, the current VGP pipelines have led to high-quality reference genomes for over 135 species deposited in the public databases, representing the most complete and accurate versions of those species to date, including multiple species at risk of extinction. The VGP 2021 flagship paper and associated publications demonstrates feasibility in quality standardization and scale for the field of genomics. To find our more information, visit


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