A Mammoth Question: Who Pays for Basic Research?

The idea of resurrecting the mammoth is very cool, but:

There is no present way to synthesize a genome-size chunk of mammoth DNA, let alone to develop it into a whole animal. But Dr. Schuster said a shortcut would be to modify the genome of an elephant’s cell at the 400,000 or more sites necessary to make it resemble a mammoth’s genome. The cell could be converted into an embryo and brought to term by an elephant, a project he estimated would cost some $10 million. “This is something that could work, though it will be tedious and expensive,” he said. [Emphasis added.]

The question is, who should pay for this kind of basic research? Certainly, it’s not a legitimate function of government (not that it matters, of course). I suppose it might be valuable to a pharmaceutical company or two, but that depends on whether the results could be commercialized. Specifically, if they could be patented.

That’s way over my head, but if we’re going to have research like this, then somebody needs to be able to make money from it.

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