A business engaged in the “de-extinction” of the woolly mammoth is currently working on a vaccine that could prevent contemporary elephants from suffering the same fate as their chilly-adapted ancestors.
The world-famous geneticist George Church and tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm founded Colossal Biosciences, which announced on Wednesday that it is stepping up research and development efforts to develop a vaccine for a deadly illness that is the main killer of captive Asian elephant calves in Asia, North America, and Europe and poses a serious threat in the wild.
Less than 52,000 Asian elephants are still living in the wild today, and according to the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, they are an endangered species. One of the biggest threats to the long-term survival of these Asian elephants is the fatal hemorrhagic disease.
Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, also known as EEHV, is the disease that affects Asian elephants, particularly young, immuno-underdeveloped individuals.
According to Matt James, Colossal’s head of animal operations, “EEHV is responsible for nearly 66 percent of all Asian elephant deaths in North American zoos and a still unknown, but massively underestimated, number of wild elephants.”
The fact that this virus is latent makes it difficult to detect and treat because it can go years without causing clinical illness or death.
Colossal has teamed up with Paul Ling, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Virology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, to advance the creation of a vaccine.
According to Lamm, who spoke to Newsweek, “Colossal is very excited to be collaborating with Paul Ling of the Baylor College of Medicine.” “Dr. Since he invented viral detection assays that enable us to treat elephants before they ever exhibit symptoms of illness, Ling, the foremost expert on EEHV in the world, has saved more elephants than we’ll ever know.
Through this partnership, which was established earlier this year, Colossal is able to give Dr. Ling’s laboratory, which will hasten his ongoing creation of a protein subunit vaccine.
The EEHV virus contains specific proteins that Ling’s lab has identified and which Colossal claims it can engineer into a vaccine. By administering this shot, the elephant will develop immune defenses against the pathogen.
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