Ben Lamm. Photography by John Davidson.
Woolly mammoths haven’t existed for thousands of years. Most had disappeared about 10,000 years ago, and the few remaining populations were gone by about 4,000 years ago.
But imagine if they roamed in the 21st century. Their stomping in the Arctic could expose healthy, carbon-trapping grasses, suppress methane and prevent light reflection. They could restore the tundra to a global climate protector. With the ever-present threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and other issues, the mammoths would address problems humans are trying to solve.
This isn’t just hypothetical. Earlier this year, a company called Colossal Biosciences announced its goal to bring back the woolly mammoth. And our neighbor Ben Lamm is at the helm.
Lamm, a fellow of the Explorer’s Club and a Scientific Advisory Board member on the Planetary Society, has been interested in nature preservation his whole life.
Throughout his childhood, the Texas native traveled frequently with his family. They spent a lot of time in Africa, where they saw animals roaming freely.
“I’ve always been drawn to animals and preserving wildlife in their natural habitat,” says Lamm, who splits his time between Austin and his family’s mid-century modern Preston Hollow home. “And then, over the last four or five years, as there’s been more and more science that’s come out showing the effects of man-made climate change, it’s just made me more interested in leveraging my skill sets with emerging technologies for that category.”
During his career, Lamm founded several startups: Hypergiant, an enterprise AI Software company focusing on critical infrastructure, space and defense; Conversable, a conversational intelligence platform that facilitates automated experiences between companies and customers, acquired by LivePerson; Chaotic Moon, a creative technology company acquired by Accenture; and Team Chaos, a gaming business acquired by Zynga.
Given his interest in synthetic biology, Lamm met with scientist George Church, a leading researcher in the field, a couple years ago. Synthetic biology includes redesigning organisms to address problems by engineering them to have new abilities. Church, the Robert Winthrop professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, is known for his breakthroughs in genomics.