20. How To Clone A Dragon 2 | Can We Bioengineer Dragons?

You have to bioengineer a dragon before you can clone a dragon.

[For Part 1 of this series on How to Clone* a Dragon, click here.]


In the first of her two part post on How to Bioengineer a Dragon, Keira Havens, of Revolution Bioengineering, argues that there should be a compelling reason to modify a living organism to create a dragon. She points out that “it is unlikely that bioengineering will be the quick and inexpensive way of accomplishing your goal” of personal transportation. Which is true, if you’re looking to create a new form of transportation.

In the end of her post, she concludes the top reason to bioengineer a dragon is “because they’re cool.”

I respectfully disagree.

While I’m more in the school of possibility and am very closely watching George Church’s Wooly Mammoth revival, I think there is a more compelling reason to bioengineer a dragon.

In describing the reasons to bring back the Wooly Mammoth, Church’s team list three reasons they are pursuing their bioengineering experiement:

  1. As an ecosystems approach to confront climate change
  2. Because ancient DNA holds secrets that impact modern biology and medicine
  3. [Cloning a mammoth] is the future of large mammal conservation

In the past year, Church’s team has inserted mammoth DNA into the cells of living elephant cell cultures. But they are a long way off from cloning a mammoth, just as we are a long way off from cloning a dragon.

So, why clone a dragon?

Not because they’re cool.

Though I do believe the creation of a complex organism like a dragon – a flying lizard able to breath fire and is intelligent enough to understand and respond to commands – is extremely cool. However, I don’t think that’s enough of a reason.

Back in 2006, The Economist reported the efforts of GeneDupe, a company purported to be cloning dragons. While the GeneDupe story turned out to be an April Fool’s Day joke (that the Economist fell for 😉 ), the story hit upon the real reason to create a dragon: for business.

Biotech pets, new animals that never existed before will create new markets. And why not? Dragons will part of that market, as will revived and extinct animals and new chimeras.


Here’s a conversation on GoogleGroups that Revolution Bioengineering lead scientist Nikolai Braun and Keira Havens participated in early in 2015. And here’s the best answer from a Yahoo! Answers on whether a dragon could be created using synthetic biology.


*BTW, I know, “to clone” means to make an identical biological copy. To clone a dragon implies someone has already done the hard work of bioengineering this complex organism. In a future post, I’ll describe why I chose the word “clone” versus “bioengineer.”