Four thousand years ago, woolly mammoths went extinct, and one of the planet’s most biodiverse habitats, the Mammoth Steppe, disappeared from the Arctic tundra.
Harvard genetics professor George Church believes that bringing back these ancient creatures through genetic engineering could help reverse climate change by restoring the plant root systems where the mammoths graze and thereby pull more carbon from the atmosphere.
Church’s effort to bring back lost species, known as de-extinction, is now the focus of a startup called Colossal. On Sept. 13, he and his partner, serial entrepreneur Ben Lamm, publicly debuted the company with $15 million in funding from billionaires Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of Winklevoss Capital, Tim Draper of Draper Associates, Peter Diamandis of Bold Capital, and Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital.
Thomas Tull, founder of Legendary Pictures, led the investment round. Other high profile backers include bestselling author Tony Robbins.
In 2012, Church was part of a team that pioneered the gene editing tool Crispr-Cas9. Through the process of cutting and pasting DNA, he saw the potential to alter the genetic code of the endangered Asian elephant to make it more like the woolly mammoth. He now wants to implant the test tube embryos of these mammophants into Asian or African elephants, or artificial wombs, to grow them into calves that can be returned to their native habitat.
The effort, Church hopes, in time will aid in developing tools and techniques to help all threatened species survive.
Cameron Winklevoss was among those attracted to the idea. He’s best known for being portrayed in the movie The Social Network, and using a legal settlement with Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg over Facebook’s origins to invest early in Bitcoin. Fortune spoke with Winklevoss about why he decided to invest in Colossal and his views about cryptocurrency.