PayPal chief Peter Thiel donates $100,000 to research effort to bring back the woolly mammoth

So far, the team has achieved mammoth fur to growth on a mouse that was grafted with elephant cells

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 9:26pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 10:51pm

PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel has invested US$100,000 in a research effort to resurrect the woolly mammoth.

Thiel, who said viewing death as inevitable is a sign of “complacency of the western world”, gave the money to Harvard University genomics professor George Church, whose team is trying to revive the extinct pachyderm.

The donation, detailed for the first time in a new book by Ben Mezrich called Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures, was made in 2015.

Woolly mammoths suffered harmful mutations and genetic ‘meltdown’ before extinction

The de-extinction approach taken by Church and his team will sound familiar to Jurassic Park fans: they are taking DNA extracted from frozen mammoths and using it to genetically modify elephant cells. So far, the team has managed to get mammoth fur to grow from the side of a mouse grafted with elephant cells. The results have yet to be published in scientific papers.

Thiel’s team did not respond to requests for confirmation of the investment, but Church told MIT Technology Review it was true.

Church said Thiel told him he wanted to fund the “craziest thing” he was doing. Church had three suggestions: an anti-ageing scheme, a project using human neurons to create artificial intelligence, and the mammoth. Thiel went for the mammoth.

According to interviews, the billionaire sees death as a terrible inconvenience. He has invested millions in biotechnology and artificial intelligence in what he has called “the immortality project”.

He has also signed up with cryogenics company Alcor to be deep-frozen at the time of his death in the hope that he too can be resurrected.