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174th Tunnelling Company

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The 174th Tunnelling Company was one of the tunnelling companies of the Royal Engineers created by the British Army during World War I. The tunnelling units were occupied in offensive and defensive mining involving the placing and maintaining of mines under enemy lines, as well as other underground work such as the construction of deep dugouts for troop accommodation, the digging of subways, saps (a narrow trench dug to approach enemy trenches), cable trenches and underground chambers for signals and medical services.[1]

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Bulletproof radio a state of high performance you're listening to bulletproof radio with Dave Asprey today's cool fact of the day is that Kino diet may protect your eyes. Well, at least if you're a mouse and probably if you're a human according to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience Switching mice destined to develop glaucoma onto a low-carb high-fat diet Which is the template for a bulletproof? although it's not always keto but it protects the cells of the retina and their connections to the brain and the study adds to a bunch of other findings that this kind of diet has neuroprotective effects on Alzheimer's Parkinson's and ALS You might have noticed that a lot of the research in my book headstrong about mitochondria relied on Research on those three things because when the brain breaks, that's bad when you do things that make broken brains heal And you do those two brains that are already. Well they kind of kick ass more which is the idea behind it and in this study they concluded that higher rates of glaucoma and people with diabetes also suggest a potential connection between that eye disease and Metabolic stress and the reason I'm bringing this to your attention Is that when you make your metabolism work better? your risk of every disease and your risk of dying from any cause other than a piano falling on your head goes down and There's no double-blind clinical trials on pianos following any head either, but we just kind of know that Now if you like a bulletproof radio you like what you hear I would love it if you took a few seconds to go to Bulletproof calm slash iTunes which will get you right over to the Apple page where you can leave a five star review and say hey This show is cool. I'd appreciate it Today's guest is Andrew Hessel Imagine building something like a cell phone or a car or a house and that one thing just to reproduced itself well That's kind of the idea behind what the human genome project Right or GP right intends to do starting with the basics they want to build a human cell from the ground up and Completed with all the DNA that's required to produce more human cells And the idea is that by mastering this technique we could wipe out diseases that we just don't understand yet because in order to build something from the ground up you have to Understand it in a way that you don't understand. We were looking at something that's already built and Andrew today's guest is a CEO of humane genomics Which is a seed stage company developing virus based therapies for cancer starting with dogs, and he's also a co-founder of GP Right or genome project, right which is an international scientific effort working engineer large genomes including ours Welcome to the show. Thanks for having me Dave when I decided I wanted to interview I I checked you out and in the GP write to the Human Genome Project right is one of those things that sounds like science fiction and I looked at what you're doing and you described yourself as a synthetic biologist Which is a set of words that did not exist even 15 years ago. What the heck is a synthetic biologist? well What's the biologist what's a molecular biologist? Synthetic biologists are it's a new field Where you don't take apart genomes and try and understand what they do That's kind of the reverse engineering of biology It's it's aspiring to go and design and build genomes from scratch and if you can build a Gina from scratch you build organisms from scratch, the two are are Completely linked your starting your work with viruses, but to date at least in my understanding No one's ever been able to build a life from the ground up We can put all the building blocks together But there's some animating force to quote 17th century alchemists or something That that makes it turn on and and start working have we cracked that code yet? well There's a group of people that are trying to crack it at the very low level and build all the cellular machinery from the ground Up, but I take a different point of view and again I speak for myself not the field. But but all life on this planet from a simple bacterium to all the way to you and and Implants as well have a common architecture when it comes to how the cell operates so it's essentially conserved even though there's millions of species of animals, so You don't really have to build lifes from scratch you the only difference between these different mmm These different organisms is really their genomes the genome with the common architecture The machinery of the cell can create massive diversity So I'm not out to create new life forms in the sense of rebuilding architectures from the ground up I'm just out to reprogram them and make new versions of life forms So you're gonna start with a platform that's basically a bacteria or a virus or something. Although viruses may not really be alive and then and in sort of do Rebuilding from the foundations up rather than assembling a bunch of amino acids and fats and saying, there you go I got a life-form. Well, well, you can look at it this way The machinery of life is conserved and has been for four billion years on the planet think of it as a really powerful printer You know, all you have to really do to to make a new life-form is just create send new code to the printer So I'm not out to rebuild life from scratch I'm just out to learn how to program it and make versions of life that that do really really useful and powerful positive things if you took off your what's possible glasses and Protect yourself 50 years into the future and you had unlimited resources. What life would you create? Oh, wow that no one has ever asked me that I tend to be very pragmatic and I tend to work bottom-up so just as a foundation the thing that I've been talking about recently because it's really pragmatic is I've got I've got two young children once three and a half and the other ones nine months and and the types of things I want to build are things that just make it easier to support kids because that's what I'm thinking about on a day-to-day basis and and Honestly, the the I talk about the milk Tribble. I want a small furry object with a nipple that just produces Milk, so I don't have to make bottles I don't have to you know I can actually feed the baby and and if it purrs and coos, that would be terrific, too And if you know once it's kind of been drained this disembodied breast put it in the garden it grows into a beautiful flower So that's kind of one thing. I'd like but you know on a more pragmatic basis I'm not a much of a home home owner keeper maintainer. I would really just like to plant seeds and grow homes I think that would be totally awesome So now you're entering the world of cyberpunk and Neil Stevenson sort of a sort of science fiction where you have this idea of you plant a seed that that literally could grow into a tree that has the components of a house and is alive and why not why chop the trees down and plane them and make lumber when you could just have a large object that's made of wood its living its photosynthesizing and it's maintaining the right temperature for human inhabitation, it's got it just it just seems like we've got this incredible machinery now the cell to start working with And and we really don't know how far we can take that machinery in terms of science fiction We know where it's been limited in terms of evolution in nature But nature's got a different really different set of objectives compared to human intention So I just like to see how far we can take the cell Are we gonna see that in our lifetimes? I? Think it's gonna happen Quickly these things tend to start off pretty slow Because you're you're feeling them out You're learning the basics But the beautiful thing about life if you kind of look at it as a manufacturing platform the way that I do it's everywhere already, it's Universal on this planet as deep as you can drill a hole, you'll find microbes clouds are filled with microbes, you know so life is literally everywhere and And there's only one programming language and it's been the same language for billions of years so I think the more that we people get into this and start to Concentrate there there research and development and put it into a community The the faster this is going to snowball. It's like you don't have to go build a new factory The factories are already there. You just have to learn how to how to put a design into the into the factory You're a faculty member at the singularity University and I've lectured there and actually have an adjunct faculty position - no I've never actually taught a class there and One of the things that they cover there is nanotechnology and the idea that well we don't have to make life forms We can just make tiny little robots that self replicate and do essentially the same thing that life does but one of the The scenarios that we come across there is the gray goo scenario where you make the wrong robot that turns Everything it meets into another nano machine and pretty soon the whole planet is basically lifeless except for little robots trying to eat each other How do you know that you won't make synthetic biology that just makes organic and gray goo? Well, man I remember a synthetic biologist one of the founding people of the field of synthetic biology Tom Knight Kind of laughing at this idea and saying, you know biology is nanotechnology that actually works Exactly. And and when you when you look at the machinery of the cell, it is nano scale and and But it works with a very different set of principles I think I think if you just take a look at bacteria and fungi and and other you know Just single-celled organisms That's what takes complex objects and decomposes them back into the goo That other things grow out of we we call it soil So so, I don't really have a fear of creating a biological goo that just turns everything into mush That's kind of what happens after we die. So I suppose the closest thing to that would be, you know, some sort of Pandemic where the where it knocks out most life III I think that if that type of thing could spontaneous arise It would have already have been tried out by nature. I think in general nature is the most secure technology there is It is really hard to hack biology There are numerous safety systems and checksums and mechanisms, you know compared to computers It's just not that much of a worry for me That's a fair answer when I wrote my book headstrong about mitochondria, I Delved into the realm of quantum biology, which is you say the word quantum and immediately You've got people with robes and crystals and things like that who are using the term? but it actually is a real term in quantum biology and there are strange quantum effects happening where DNA releases a bio photon for a femtosecond every 40 seconds or so and we know that mitochondria communicate via lazing also with bio photons and There's quantum tunneling going on inside there Do we really know enough to build that from the ground up because it seems like there's some things going on cells that Cellular biologists don't understand yet. Oh I completely agree with you I look at just an average enzyme, you know, these one of these biological catalysts that turn You know substrates into different products as being the almost magical Chemists, they do things that that organic chemists can only dream of so so we know that they're manipulating matter in ways that we have a lot of difficulty understanding today and even modeling because as you know, Some of the effects are quantum that they've been able to tap into that being said You don't have to Understand all of the machinery of the cell to be able to reprogram it because the you just have to move up to the level Of DNA code and programming to be able to understand how to build Certain structures the more you can understand and model the better But we we don't have a unified model of even a simple cell the same way We have a unified model of planet Earth as we do with Google earth that where we're constantly layering on more and more detailed information So the the cell is clearly a very complex machine but I think as we start to focus on doing this type of modeling as we start to, you know, really build a field of biology that isn't just a few Specialists that that is really like much more like the field of computing Where you get people from basically all walks of life all industries kind of adding to it I I think will start to crack some of some of the lower-level problems You know below the programming of DNA and what's the timeframe you think that's going to happen in? again, these things are all accelerating because Again, if you look at if if you just look at the DNA sequencing world You know where the where where the human genome project was launched in 1990 with a three billion dollar budget and a 15 year time frame It came in two years early and on budget which for a government project almost never happens And that's because the technology of reading DNA advanced so quickly even during those 15 years that they were able to hit their targets and and since the first You know since the the genome was essentially complete in 2003 that technology has only continued to accelerate at times Outpacing Moore's law by over 500% and it's not over today. You can go and get your genome Complete genome not just sampling like 23andme your complete genome commercially for 18 months for under a thousand dollars And what I hear is that it'll be as low as two hundred dollars in the next twelve months if you if you you know granted there's always some caveats, but but but that's Amazing to go from billions of dollars to a couple hundred bucks in a timeframe of under 20 years So so, I think we're gonna see the same thing on the synthesis side and even on the comprehension and design side as we start applying the latest efforts in computing and in DNA synthesis How is this going to affect our everyday lives in five years? I think that you'll start to see it soonest in the world of DNA sequencing like already I've been impressed that DNA sequence like DNA testing does just look at his testing as Has exploded in the last couple of years like it's just taken off today You see ads for 23andme or ancestry or National Geographic all the time. They're big sellers On on you know at Christmas time or on prime day. That's amazing So DNA testing has suddenly become something. We are a lot more comfortable with I think I think what we're starting to see now is kind of a next-generation testing industry that's going to Explode you know and not bring in a you know, five or ten million people. I think it'll they'll figure out the business model so that Everyone can can be sequenced in the same way that basically anyone that wants one gets a free Gmail or Facebook Account. I think we're going to see I think the trend in DNA sequencing is that it's going free and probably will flip to Actually starting to pay the contributors In some way to incentivize them to join so I think in five years, we're going to see a mushrooming of DNA testing, which will bring Millions, maybe maybe hundreds of millions of genomes online over the next decade And that's just going to be a giant sandbox for? Accelerating R&D and life science as well as allowing us and by lowering the cost of sequencing in general allowing us to sequence the world around us whether it's our microbes or plants animals that we share the environment with so that that's going to be the biggest change and all of that is just feedstock for being able to better design useful biology going forward but the DNA synthesizers and Even the design tools have lagged The the reading of DNA and tools for comprehending and and and trying to figure out what that DNA does And there are some parallels from my career in technology Many people by now have heard of CAD or computer-aided design and almost everything you buy today was designed on a computer First so you could look at how it would Rotate in space and then it's sent to a machine that makes die parts and cuts it and things like that or casted And that ink that includes in the lid to you're ready to drink bulletproof cold brew that was that was designed on a CAD machine somewhere or with CAD software and then about 25 years ago, they started taking those tools and saying well, why would use them to build structural steel? Why don't use them to design Semiconductors and I did a lot of work in my early career I'm putting a company called synopsis online, which is one of the the big public companies Doing that and it turns out that that companies were spending Hundreds of millions of dollars trying to make it more efficient for an engineer to line Transistors up and the right way to do something and that visualizing on a computer was really powerful But those tools are are mostly missing for biology. I mean you still see biologists talking about AC G and T and but you never see computer scientists talking about zeros and ones because they sort of have a language in a Design environment to write code when am I going to be able to tell my kids? Hey, go take a class using this graphical design tool to build some DNA to do something cool. That is an absolutely great question And I've said the same things For years in in 2012. I joined the largest CAD company in the world Autodesk With the intention of helping them build a bio CAD and in fact, they did a Very good job on that front and and they have a tool now called genetic constructor. Well, there is one. Yeah, they made one And and now there's other groups coming along one of them. One of the more interesting ones is a company called assam ah've that that really takes the circuit design from EDA electronic design and and the electronic design automation and and directly using that language moves it into biological circuit design that can do really high order logic and It's remarkable so you you've hit the nail on the head the day we can sit there with a design tool and draw the Organism that we want. I want a dragon and and let the software figure out the complexities of of the cellular and and Metabolic designs and just hit print that will be really cool We're not there yet, but I can tell you that's what the field is aspiring to this century. I Published a report a couple years ago on on my Facebook page about a Biologist somewhere who said oh there's a problem with a moth that's eating some agricultural crop and it turns out there's a type of mold But that kills the moth so we just tweak the mold a little bit. We just added a Really strong neurotoxin from spider venom and something else from a poisonous snake to the mold now the mold kills those moths really well, so we let it go and No I'm not making this up and now I did a documentary on toxic mold and how we've had an incredible expansion of Aspergillus and force REM and making way more toxins dated before that are affecting human biology at the Mitochondrial level and others that even DNA damage. I'm going ah so now if we have the tools you just talked about and we put those in the hands of Crackpots like this biologist who said let me solve a short-term problem and create a giant big problem And do we really want everyone walk around with dragons? Well, yeah, probably not I actually don't worry about the dragons so much as when you say just the Things like viruses and and single-celled organisms that replicate very quickly in ER and they're pretty hard to wipe out Any I usually say that anything as large as a chicken or a pig, you know, we're pretty good at hunting But when it comes to the microorganisms we just don't have the right tools for that So no you you raise a really point. And and this is this is one of the reasons why I think that the genome project right is is just so necessary today We need to we need to start thinking collectively, I mean humanity about some of the the opportunities and risks with these types of technologies we've had agriculture for millennia, so we know that Agriculture is a very good thing being able to do selective breeding of crops being able to manage animals and and plants and even forests and and and ecosystems this is important for humans to survive on this planet And and the tools of and the platform of biology From a cellular level is universal. We can't we can't prevent access to it So we have to start thinking in new ways about how how we channel this stuff to for good and how we defend it against bad the problems are very Similar to what we've been learning by doing with the internet The Internet is a platform can be used for good or bad today. Most of our lives are are tied in some way to The internet and electronic systems our economies are tied to it We we know that there's risks but we don't we don't prohibit the system. We we've learned how to We're learning how to how to regulate it and manage it I think we're gonna see a lot of the same types of lessons that we're learning in cybersecurity be applied to biological Security with but I like to point out biologics the biological security has already figured out a lot of those lessons It's a two-way learn is called an immune system And-and-and the immune system is amazing because it's actually a molecular defense against most foreign You know foreign molecules the the the bigger biological approach and the one that that you and I probably aren't friends with is one That's well known in computer science is called redundant array of inexpensive Systems you might heard of a raid hard drive. It means you have five hard drives in case one fails So the way mother nature designs thinks yeah, we've got a few billion people I don't care if a billion of them fail The other ones will keep the life going and if you're one of the billion that quote failed You probably didn't like that outcome. And that's that impersonal interest versus billion-year time spend biology interest It's is very true. The mother Nature doesn't care about you or me or any one person at all They care about you know Is there enough life to sustain itself? If you can even describe carrying to a distributed system an emergent like that? I I want it I want to go back You talked about? What will change in five years and its genetic testing? I sequence my genome the three four years ago I've got a big binder with all this stuff And mostly it said you have a 10% risk of this and you have an 8% chance That you carry some gene that could make a defect in in some of your offspring and you had you know You metabolize caffeine this way, but in terms of actionable information It seems like almost everything is epigenetic If your risk is a little higher of this then don't do the things that would make that gene turn on How much epigenetics this idea that the environment around you changes genetic expression? How much does that goes into GP right and the way you think about things like maybe instead of editing your DNA just turn on The light set in the morning. Oh, well, I Agreed like we we still don't feel Dov at the genetics only came after genetics so and it's still so it's even younger but I think So I can't say a lot of that is baked into GP, right? But I want to be clear GP right wasn't started because we need to make more human genomes that that's not the point if you I want to just I just want to give you a little bit of history like The first genome project was founded in the 1980s Really as a Grand Challenge and back then we hadn't even sequence to bacterium. We had only sequenced a few viruses So when the scientist came along and said, hey, let's let's do let's sequence the human genome. It was a big aspirational Really controversial project? Oh, yeah and But today we realize there's more and more value coming out of being able to read human genomes in in many different fields It's still very early because we don't have many people sequenced yet and it's still a very specialized field But it's it's starting to open up. We'd never go back With GP, right? I was watching the feet of the field that is called synthetic biology start it was like watching the electronics industry start people were starting to design and build genetic structures first at the level of proteins doing that for the biotech industry then Metabolic pathways being able to string together a number of enzymes to make a high value product Using you know assembling essentially changing the metabolism of a cell and and there were a few groups Craig Venter in particular that was that was focusing on making synthetic making the in writing the entire genome so That doesn't most of that writing is copying. Most of that writing is copy because If you if you break the genome the organism is going to grow and all the money you've made Into making a designer genome is going to fail So but it's starting to get to the point where you can do this design and I was watching a number of companies pop up And Synthetic Genomics being one of them Jenko Bioworks one of the one of the more successful groups in the field zymogen and others start to pop up and start to focus on application development which is a really narrow specialization of this technology that You have to focus if you're gonna do a business and I saw that there was kind of a need for scientists to come together globally To build up to really start thinking well in the same way that reading and genome has opened up genomics and and medicine and health and forensics and other things we really need to start thinking about you know working together to create a design platform not just Tatton technologically but but in terms of society for writing larger genomes plants animals You know eventually one day human genomes but part of by putting human in front of it You know because it was originally called the Human Genome Project right part of putting human in front of it Engages humanity it gets people listening because we're all human If it's the dog genome project or the mouse genome project most people aren't going to pay that much attention So putting making it the Human Genome Project right really got people Interested and then we ended up getting rid of the H and just calling a genome project right because it's not just about humans It's about being able to understand and and deploy platforms tools scientific resources to be able to write large genomes and to do it in a safe and responsible way to have Standards to look at the intellectual property. Look at the ethics. Look at the defense systems the safety engineering etc So it was about creating this umbrella. And and yeah, this is This is a technology that many people today think is science fiction but it's gonna come fast and hard just like reading DNA did so I think it's just better to get ahead of the curve and I've been delighted by how quickly the project has Has has brought together scientists from around the world to really start this engagement. It is a meaningful scientific achievement and it's it's something that as As a the guy wrote the definition of the word biohacking which was become a field the reason hacking was important to me as I come from computer science and When a company writes software you simply don't know what's in there And what hackers did is they said 'we will write linux You want to see the source code you want to see what's going on in there. We'll let you do it and In a biological system. There's always something that works to grow and something that works to counter that so we have predators and prey they keep each other in balance and I feel like hackers actually keep big dumb things from governments and big companies Private enterprise from doing really evil things because like we actually know how it works and what you're doing. There is either stupid or evil and So requirement as we continue to evolve our ability to edit our own DNA that there's an open discussion and that the science is available and it's not only for The military use to create super soldiers and stuff that's actually happening in various countries around the planet today We're there. They're working on little secret programs like that And I'm not talking Captain America Avengers kind of stuff But this is their if you dig around it's not conspiracy theory stuff at all. It's you know, oh, yeah, here's a proposal to see what happens and You can see where that goes. If if the rest of us don't have access to those tools but It is all still kind of academic and and do which is my concern here am I going to be able to use this to edit my DNA because I've got some stuff in there that I Kind of want to upgrade. I mean are we gonna be able use the viruses you're using to to cure cancer and dogs? Can I just take a couple of those and just upgrade a little bit of my mitochondrial function, you know changed my hair color I don't know lately. Come on. Give me some good science fiction stuff. That's actually gonna happen Well, and okay, I'll speak for myself again. That's all I can speak for on this front the reason why I focused on viral engineering and Was is there the smallest genomes and most people don't realize the first one was synthesized in? 2002 like it's been 16 years In those 16 years only 25 synthetic viruses that I'm aware of have been engineered and these are the book including smallpox They recreated small trash. They do make smallpox. They made horse pox a very close relative. So in it, thank you So so and and the first synthetic virus was polio not the best ambassador for the field but that being said I I've spent the last I've really spent the last 15 years going out and saying well these synthetic viruses are going to be pretty important because Viruses are essentially USB sticks first, you know for for biological cells they drop programs in It's not like a USB stick that has a standard port because cells are all different You get viruses in all different shapes and sizes But the the core functionality of a virus is just to drop new code into a particular cell or organism And if you think about it, unless I I've read you probably are more up-to-date than I am about 8% of human DNA is viral and origin. Yes. They're they're deactivated retroviruses that brought in blocks of code over over our evolution because otherwise, you only get random mutation in the copying process or maybe a bit of duplication and an evolution in that sandbox But but viruses have the ability to bring in fairly large chunks of code and actually incorporate them into the genome Permanently, so I look at them as the IP packets on the biological network So, so they're there they're absolutely essential in evolutionary processes and yet They're there just wasn't a lot of activity in doing synthetic virus engineering And I mean the beautiful part about doing synthetic viruses is you have atomic control over the design of the virus it's not like you're working with a stock of the virus from a freezer from an isolate from You know from from Africa and you have to kind of sequence it just under you know Did you pull the virus out of the fridge? You know, this is this is where you sit down and can start doing Tad's on the virus design So, you know just doing virus fabrication and getting better at it should give the ability for for people to create biological apps You know for for virtually any application whether it's to kill a cancer cell or whether it's to add a new feature or function into a human one of the viruses that I absolutely love is a virus that that with it's been it's been evolved and Selected to have really high efficiency transfer to the retinal cells of the eye there It's part of a project to cure a certain form of genetic blindness. You just replaced the code in the retinal cells That's defective and boom you your eye starts to work again but I love the idea that one day I would just be able to put in code to give myself an expanded range of vision, you know into the read or Etcetera so so that's possible now How do you get to that point in any type of reasonable timeframe? I think I Think self experimentation is going to be a part of that. I can't see how it how it's not the bio hackers are getting more and more sophisticated, but they're also getting you know, they're also building much more of a community in generating their own forms of oversight and and You know for the better part regulation if they do something stupid, it makes front-page news It does and I I feel really strongly around this whole concept of medical or biological freedom and only one of the founding fathers in the u.s. Was from the medical field and He warned there would be great medical tyranny If you don't put this in the Bill of Rights and all the other Businessman and attorneys told him you're you're crazy and didn't listen to him. That was dr. Benjamin Rush, by the way and When you look forward to where we are now I Think that there's a great argument that says look if you want to create a virus that does wacky stuff to you that include including May kill you Go for it as long as it's not transmissible and There's there's a I think a very firm ethical line there. But right now you kind of have to leave the u.s to do the coolest stem-cell treatments to Experiment with viruses legally unless you manufacture it yourself. If you buy a virus from someone you want to use on yourself, you know Oh, you're somehow you know breaking the law or doing something about supposed to do Do you see that that changing or do you see some countries having? massive advantages like Singapore or India where you can do medical experiments on Consenting people who are probably going to die anyway, and and you can just do it whereas in the u.s You might think about it for 20 years old the person wastes away it is this gonna change here. I think it has to Whenever I've had the opportunity to speak to government here in the United States I've pointed out that there are some really Strong headwinds and it's not just the United States. It's the West and in part because There's many reasons there's some of them are some of them are religious some of them are There's a legacy biotech industry that you know wouldn't doesn't really want to see new entrants come in that have access to These types of tools that cost, you know a fraction of of the old tools and the old approaches and and when you start doing self experimentation You know you you're going to create a little bit of noise and activity we saw that when computers went personal So, but I don't know how Put this way it would have to be really prohibited and restricted to to block this type of activity in in Anywhere in the world, so I think I think right now we're going we're seeing the proliferate a proliferation of biohacking But we're also seeing some Countries and and I was in Hong Kong recently By invitation. I'm going to Singapore by invitation and in January, these are countries that are really looking at biotech is the next big platform and and they're making it easier and Supporting people to try new ambitious projects and clearing a path to market You know in a much more progressive way than I'm seeing in the United States right now I have a friend who was going to have children with very severe birth defects and nua genetically The guy's very successful. So he and his wife went out out of the US and edited the DNA In their own germline to remove the genetic defect so their children were born healthy and their children's children have zero chance of having that thing that had been in his family for a very long time That's already happening. Yeah, and I mean it I think it'll be normal in We're gonna have kids. Let's just check out our genes and make sure everything's legit And if it's not legit it's just a little tweaking but it's a very fine line because oh by the way This one thing this one gene that we know is associated with with very high intelligence and there are extra several genes that way Why don't we just toss a couple of those in there? and we are going to whether we like it or not with GP, right and other project that we're going to Fundamentally change the speed of evolution of the human species and I'm all for that. Do you agree that that's gonna happen? And do you think it's a good idea? I I think it's unstoppable. I'm kind of a fan of Kevin Kelly And some of his writing what he's going to show you Yeah, and and and I you know I really believe that it can't be stopped once the technology exists It's going to proliferate you. Just want to steer it towards good, but that's not the technology You know, that's what technology does that's what intention does And and so I think we have a responsibility To to as a society to use these technologies in positive ways And and I think you kind of hit the nail on the head when it comes to understanding It when it comes to when it comes to giving our kids a leg up You know today we we we give parents a leg up in having kids with IVF technologies And these are still continuing to evolve and improve I think that we just crossed the 40 year anniversary of the first IVF baby last July Today, it's pretty much accepted controversial then accepted today It's still room for improvement. Let's make it five hundred dollars instead of fifteen thousand Okay, great When it comes to editing our genomes, I think if it's so that our kids will be born healthy. That's great And and I think you could make the case for that genetic surgery We use every other type of surgery to make a kid happy and healthy Genetic surgery is just a new tool when it comes to when it comes to giving them adding genes To them to give them a leg up. I think there you just have a slightly higher bar that to Demonstrate that you're not going to break them And that comes with with animal studies and being able to do this type of engineering and animals plants Etc as we get better at those technologies you we become more comfortable with it But yeah then there'll be some people that will just try because the environment is more permissive or they're just not afraid of the Technologies and and you know, they'll they'll kind of separate from the pack. They might even be criticized for a while But then as the results start to get better known they you know It's a lesson for everyone and as they and as their children become adults That are hyper intelligent and super strong and long-lived and everyone sees what happened. They're like, maybe I should have done that Yeah maybe we want everyone to have this instead of just a few wealthy people and And it may not necessarily be a biological fix again today We're intelligent just if we have the Internet And because you know like we are I I need the Internet to and to reinforce a lot of my conversations today You know just because I my brain doesn't remember the facts I don't know if I want a brain that you know that remembers facts perfectly because I've met people with some of those savant abilities and and they've had It's hard to move on if you can't forget they also Those extreme intelligences and those other skills usually come with other neurological atypical things autism schizophrenia You know all sorts of stuff like that and when it comes to strength that that personally never mattered to me so much But then I like heavy equipment and and okay Maybe they'll one day we'll have the mutant Olympic Games and people will just push these technologies and their bodies in whole new ways I don't know but but I've had serious conversations with people that are looking well How do you change? humanity so we can better survive in space and not get both loss or or go and live on Mars and and and And you know create a society there. So I think I think You know these things Before the before they happen you tend to think negatively and then when the situations arise when you need them you start you start to apply them in positive and In positive ways. You can't really rush it I've had the great fortune to chat with the founders of the XPrize the people funded the XPrize being the the first prize for private exploration of space or at least private space travel and I'm but they don't all believe this but I fundamentally believe that if we are going to colonize other worlds the first place to start is in hacking the human body because we're just too frail for that kind of stuff and if life evolves to Survive in certain environments. We are going to have to force that evolution to survive in environments that aren't this one and people People say well you're you know, that means you're playing God. Well if that's what you want to call it, okay? But that's not the intent here the intent here is you know, if I want to be able to survive somewhere Or maybe I won't because my biology is already off - off to the races But if we want to make people who can survive somewhere else They're probably gonna be a little different genetically than we are and maybe that's a good thing Well, I think even before we start modifying ourselves, I had a conversation about this recently with an another podcast I think you have to start modifying the plants and animals that you're bringing to sustain you somewhere else And so you start building up this this? Understanding of what is a positive change to survive in these new environments? and and then we know how to engineer ourselves moving forward if For better. I think it's actually hard to sit down and make a change in humans before you kind of build up the support system for for that but but yeah, I think it's time that we start recognizing that biology is a really powerful and accessible technology like computing computing is the is what's You know is is what's giving us a lot of the capability to to tap into biology and understand it and manipulate it but You know I think it's time. We start recognizing that this is a it's going to be one of the foundations for moving forward as a Species we're not going to get rid of computers I think and I think we're going to start using biology a lot more in the intersection of those two fields is incredible right now It is one of the most exciting times I could imagine to be alive and it's always hard to see how rapidly the changes will come because we always look backwards and we don't even have a very good 25-year history, but you look at the $20,000 mobile phone at $20 a minute to use it which existed in my lifetime and That the dollar cell phones are all over the planet. Now the same thing is happening in in your field which is which is Amazing and one of the first applications we haven't talked about yet is you are making viruses to cure cancer in dogs Tell me about that. Well, it started off pretty easy. I want to build genomes. My resources are limited I don't have a I don't have a a biotech company Behind me. In fact, I was working with Autodesk. So we had design tools. I needed to find people that were interested in to making designer viruses and and Helping them do it digitally and so that's what we did One of the one of the first people that I worked with was it was a Stanford researcher by the name of Paul Joshi that had experience with a particular virus that infects ecoli bacteria That had been very well studied that the virus was called Phi X 174 and it was like the second synthetic virus made on the planet back in 2003. So we we learned We learned how to how to make a synthetic mmm antibiotic essentially and then I started wanting to try it in cancer because every cancer is Different we know that just from sequencing. It's kind of an infection of your body with your own cells I believe that we need to have Personalized treatments to be cancer and viruses just are oh it's a way to drop It's a way to drop code into these cancer cells to kill them that was already a pretty big field in doing Cancer fighting viruses. I just want to digitize it so I found I found a veterinary group that had run a a clinical trial in dogs for a type of bone cancer that dogs get they had already made an engineered virus that targeted these bone cancer cells specifically and run the trial I Just approached them and said how would you like to start doing this digitally? how would you like to design and build the virus from scratch and just we'll just copy the recombinant virus the engineered virus that you made is kind of step one, but put in a barcode so we can Demonstrate that it was actually made from scratch digitally but then let's let's learn how to really crank this wheel and take biopsy information from From an animal with cancer make a custom virus and get it into the clinic faster and faster if it takes two months now That's too long. But let's try and get it down to two weeks And and that's where we've been working and and the technology is supporting that approach that the computing and design is getting cheaper Synthesis is getting cheaper and faster and and certainly all the molecular Diagnostics of a cancer cell is getting to be pretty much routine now If you had cancer would you go do that if I had cancer? Yeah, if I was diagnosed with the cancer, I would absolutely go and start engineering my therapies tomorrow And how long would I typically take to do that it depends on the size of the virus right now it's it's not like It's not like computing where the cost per bit is is pretty much identical the right now that you synthesize Small fragments of DNA that's really cheap But then you have to assemble the small fragments into longer fragments and eventually to get to genome size That assembly process today is really inefficient so It's a cost factor, but the the virus that we made for dogs was about 34,000 bits of code 34,000 bases and it was synthesized and assembled and tested in two weeks Sorry two months. All right, so so that would be your first your first step Obviously you get diagnosed and look what's going on. But you would you'd go in and start doing that are there billionaire's superheroes so or any other people like that living in in caves or Invisible Jets who are actually probably doing this to save their own lives today Not that I'm aware of with designer viruses, but I if if anyone out there that is a billionaire wants to start Call me or if they have a dog like part of the next step of work is to go and find We're trying to do this all open-source, by the way, like the the my philosophy is as you mentioned around Linux In fact, I wrote a chapter for Tim O'Reilly back in 2005 on open source synthetic biology and a book all on open source computing It was a little ahead of its time but the but I want to see this platform be made to just Eradicate cancer and the kind of the next step in the business development is to find highly eckworth individuals with sick dogs Because we have to keep this open and transparent if we're going to have it really thrive. Well there I I know because Some of them have reached out to me but there are some very influential and successful people who listened to the show Which is is a an honor for me just to you know anytime I know someone who's really super busy takes some time to listen I'm like a great must be doing something right but they've reached out and there are people out there who have Maybe dodged the cancer but really if you have unlimited resources and you have cancer Nothing else matters and you will put all of your resources into stopping that and you don't care about breaking laws You don't care about breaking rules because well, oh Great. I follow the rules and I died a painful death. And so I wouldn't surprise me if you got a call or two from people here this episode and this is that self experimentation and the law says Well you have to wait till is approved But mother nature says you're gonna die before it's confused to screw the law And and this is just a fundamental human thing and what I am Really inspired by Andrew is that you said this is gonna be open source because it is entirely unfair That it's someone with X amount of money is able to go out and access something that isn't that terribly expensive to do That's probably cheaper than chemo For a couple years and keep the cheaper than traditional cancer treatments yet There are a whole bunch people who'll die From cancer who could this but either don't of economic resources or the legal resources to do it? But someone has to do it first and it's usually going to be the desperate wealthy people because that's how it works. I Appreciate that and and it's one of the reasons why I've championed Only n of one therapies in other words, it's just for you. It's not ever going to be made or sold to anyone else It's just for you and that makes a a ton of sense for cancer. It doesn't make a ton of sense for vaccines So, you know a lot of the synthetic virology work has been focused at vaccines but there you always need to be able to manufacture millions of doses and and demonstrate a very high bar of safety if you're doing it for someone that has cancer and Conventional therapies just aren't working They're part of the R&D from day one and and as fast as you can iterate your your Engineering the faster you can get it into them and and I really do believe that this approach to cancer Is going to just change just just make it a managed disease over the next 20 years Like I really believe that we're already seeing the first personalized therapies in car t-cells be approved now and so we're moving away from Products to kind of platform technologies that can make, you know pump out personalized drugs We've got a lot of room for improvement but I think that viruses and virus like Nanoparticles that are kind of built from scratch are going to be a major Avenue towards this type of therapy This is been a fascinating discussion and I've got one more question for you, Andrew If someone came to you tomorrow and said I want to perform better at everything I do as a human being Based on your life's experience not just your work but everything, you know everything that's made you able to do the things you're doing What are the three most important piece of advice you have for me or job for them? Wow? That's a really that's a really interesting question. I try and think about that in in my own life Because I live I live a very different life than most people I focus I focus on what's important So if you want to get better at something, you've got to focus you do everything well You know, what I particularly focus on is is just geeking out about the future and and trying to find ways to prototype it I think it's it's stay healthy because if you're if you don't physically keep your container in your mind in good shape, you're just not going to be good at using that equipment And and probably the next one is is Is going self experiment go and start finding ways Try new things to improve your performance You have to be able to measure it to to go and to go and get you know qualitative data And quantitative data that's convincing to others, but but it only has to be convincing to you but you still have to measure it and And find out what works for you if it's getting the right amount of sleep or diet or micro dosing or whatever It happens to be You know go and go and start studying your own body. You're you are absolutely unique as an individual You can get some guidance from the mean but at the end of the day, you're you're an experiment of one Beautiful advice and thanks for sharing it and thanks for all the work You're doing keep on figuring out what's going on in our DNA and making it so all of us know about it And if I ever have an issue with cancer, which I'm not planning on having given that a keep those mitochondria are working But if ever do I'm gonna be calling you and saying help me hack a virus man Wonderful. Thank you. Thanks sender If you enjoy today's episode I would love it if you went on to Amazon and you took about 10 seconds to leave a review that said One of my books was worth reading because if you've read headstrong you've read the bulletproof diet you know how much work went into those and you know that there's stuff in there that you can use and I'll read the reviews and they helps other people find the books So do that leave a review and if you'd like to learn more about Andrews work or about GP? Right and you're interested in the field GP - right calm That's GP - WRI te comm which has all the information about this amazing project That Andrew is helping to spearhead



By January 1915 it had become evident to the BEF at the Western Front that the Germans were mining to a planned system. As the British had failed to develop suitable counter-tactics or underground listening devices before the war, field marshals French and Kitchener agreed to investigate the suitability of forming British mining units.[2] Following consultations between the Engineer-in-Chief of the BEF, Brigadier George Fowke, and the mining specialist John Norton-Griffiths, the War Office formally approved the tunnelling company scheme on 19 February 1915.[2]

Norton-Griffiths ensured that tunnelling companies numbers 170 to 177 were ready for deployment in mid-February 1915. In the spring of that year, there was constant underground fighting in the Ypres Salient at Hooge, Hill 60, Railway Wood, Sanctuary Wood, St Eloi and The Bluff which required the deployment of new drafts of tunnellers for several months after the formation of the first eight companies. The lack of suitably experienced men led to some tunnelling companies starting work later than others. The number of units available to the BEF was also restricted by the need to provide effective counter-measures to the German mining activities.[3] To make the tunnels safer and quicker to deploy, the British Army enlisted experienced coal miners, many outside their nominal recruitment policy. The first nine companies, numbers 170 to 178, were each commanded by a regular Royal Engineers officer. These companies each comprised 5 officers and 269 sappers; they were aided by additional infantrymen who were temporarily attached to the tunnellers as required, which almost doubled their numbers.[2] The success of the first tunnelling companies formed under Norton-Griffiths' command led to mining being made a separate branch of the Engineer-in-Chief's office under Major-General S.R. Rice, and the appointment of an 'Inspector of Mines' at the GHQ Saint-Omer office of the Engineer-in-Chief.[2] A second group of tunnelling companies were formed from Welsh miners from the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the Monmouthshire Regiment, who were attached to the 1st Northumberland Field Company of the Royal Engineers, which was a Territorial unit.[4] The formation of twelve new tunnelling companies, between July and October 1915, helped to bring more men into action in other parts of the Western Front.[3]

Most tunnelling companies were formed under Norton-Griffiths' leadership during 1915, and one more was added in 1916.[1] On 10 September 1915, the British government sent an appeal to Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to raise tunnelling companies in the Dominions of the British Empire. On 17 September, New Zealand became the first Dominion to agree the formation of a tunnelling unit. The New Zealand Tunnelling Company arrived at Plymouth on 3 February 1916 and was deployed to the Western Front in northern France.[5] A Canadian unit was formed from men on the battlefield, plus two other companies trained in Canada and then shipped to France. Three Australian tunnelling companies were formed by March 1916, resulting in 30 tunnelling companies of the Royal Engineers being available by the summer of 1916.[1]

Unit history


On formation, 174th Tunnelling Company moved into the Houplines area in northern France, where it was in action in the Rue du Bois sector by early 1915.[1] By autumn 1915, the 181st Tunnelling Company had also moved to this area.[1]

The Somme 1915/16

Map of chalk areas in northern France
Map of chalk areas in northern France
Geological cross-section of the Somme battlefield
Geological cross-section of the Somme battlefield
The fields around Beaumont-Hamel after the Battle of the Somme.
The fields around Beaumont-Hamel after the Battle of the Somme.

In July 1915, 174th Tunnelling Company moved to the Somme, where it took over French mine workings between La Boisselle and Carnoy,[1] some 27 miles (43 km) northeast of Amiens. On 24 July 1915, the unit established headquarters at Bray, taking over some 66 shafts at Carnoy, Fricourt, Maricourt and La Boisselle.[6] Around La Boisselle, the Germans had dug defensive transversal tunnels at a depth of about 80 feet (24 metres), parallel to the front line.[6] The British extended and deepened the tunnel system, first to 24 metres (79 ft) and ultimately 30 metres (98 ft). Above ground the infantry occupied trenches were just 45 metres (148 ft) apart.[7] Early attempts at mining by the British on the Western Front had commenced in late 1914 in the soft clay and sandy soils of Flanders. Mining at La Boisselle was in chalk, much harder and requiring different techniques.[6] The German advance had been halted at La Boisselle by French troops on 28 September 1914. There was bitter fighting for possession of the village cemetery, and for farm buildings on the south-western edge of the village, known as "L'îlot de La Boisselle" to the French, as "Granathof" (German: "shell farm") to the Germans and as "Glory Hole" to the British. In December 1914, French engineers began tunnelling beneath the ruins. With the war on the surface at stalemate, both sides continued to probe beneath the opponent's trenches and detonate ever-greater explosive charges. By August 1915, the French and Germans were working at a depth of 12 metres (39 ft); the size of their charges had reached 3,000 kilograms (6,600 lb).[7] 174th Tunnelling Company was supported in its role on the Somme by the 183rd Tunnelling Company, but the British did not have enough miners to take over the large number of French shafts and the French agreed to leave their engineers at work for several weeks. To provide the tunnellers needed, the British formed the 178th and 179th Tunnelling Companies in August 1915, followed by the 185th and 252nd Tunnelling Companies in October.[8] The 181st Tunnelling Company was also present on the Somme.[4]

In October 1915, 174th Tunnelling Company was joined at La Boisselle by 179th Tunnelling Company, which had been formed in Third Army area that month.[1] Later that month, 174th Tunnelling Company gave up part of that front sector to the newly-formed 183rd Tunnelling Company, and concentrated on the Mametz sector instead.[1] As Allied preparations were under way for the Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916), the British tunnelling companies were to make two major contributions by placing 19 large and small mines beneath the German positions along the front line and by preparing a series of shallow Russian saps from the British front line into no man's land, which would be opened at zero hour and allow the infantry to attack the German positions from a comparatively short distance.[9] In the front sector between Fricourt and Mametz,[10] 174th Tunnelling Company planted the Mametz West group of four 230-kilogram (500 lb) mines along the German trench lines running east from the heights of Bois Français, located south of Hidden Wood[11] and 1.03 kilometres (0.64 mi) south-east of Fricourt.[12] Local underground fighting at Bois Français had already taken place in the winter of 1914 and spring of 1915.[8] Before the summer of 1916, no-man's land south of Bois Français had already witnessed the blowing of at least eight mines, and the area of Kiel and Danube trenches, located some 0.46 kilometres (500 yd) to the east of Bois Français, had also seen extensive underground operations.[12] In October 1915, John Norton-Griffiths had even advocated the use of poison gas to deal with the German resistance in the Bois Français sector, but the proposal was not followed up. As at Fricourt, no frontal assault was planned in this area for 1 July as the British infantry would have to advance across large crater fields.[13] Instead, the Royal Engineers placed the Mametz West group of mines there – three charges at Kiel Trench and one at Danube Trench. The first purpose of these mines was to protect the left of the 7th Division's attack south of Mametz, while the second was to protect the 20th Battalion, Manchester Regiment during their attack on the German lines.[12]

By October 1916, 174th Tunnelling Company had moved north of the river Ancre, facing Beaumont-Hamel.[1]

Arras, 1917

During the fighting at Bullecourt on 11 April, men of 174th Tunnelling Company, under the command of Major Hutchinson, MC, worked continuously for 30 hours to dig out the victims of a collapsed house. They rescued nine men of the 2/6th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment alive.[14]

Spring Offensive 1918

In the German attack of March 1918, the unit suffered severe casualties while working on machine-gun emplacements at Bullecourt in northern France and fought as emergency infantry.[1] Soon after, 174th Tunnelling Company worked on a long section of trench in northern France near Monchy-au-Bois.[1]

See also


An overview of the history of 174th Tunnelling Company is also available in Robert K. Johns, Battle Beneath the Trenches: The Cornish Miners of 251 Tunnelling Company RE, Pen & Sword Military 2015 (ISBN 978-1473827004), p. 217 see online

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k The Tunnelling Companies RE Archived May 10, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, access date 25 April 2015
  2. ^ a b c d "Lieutenant Colonel Sir John Norton-Griffiths (1871–1930)". Royal Engineers Museum. Archived from the original on May 15, 2006. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  3. ^ a b Peter Barton/Peter Doyle/Johan Vandewalle, Beneath Flanders Fields - The Tunnellers' War 1914-1918, Staplehurst (Spellmount) (978-1862272378) p. 165.
  4. ^ a b "Corps History – Part 14: The Corps and the First World War (1914–18)". Royal Engineers Museum. Archived from the original on February 21, 2007. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  5. ^ Anthony Byledbal, "New Zealand Tunnelling Company: Chronology" (online Archived July 6, 2015, at the Wayback Machine), access date 5 July 2015
  6. ^ a b c, Military Mining (online), accessed 25 June 2015
  7. ^ a b La Boisselle Study Group, History (online), accessed 25 June 2015
  8. ^ a b Jones 2010, p. 114.
  9. ^ Jones 2010, p. 115.
  10. ^ "Battle of the Somme: "Z" Day 1 July 1916". The Great War 1914-1918. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  11. ^ Edmonds 1932, p. 349.
  12. ^ a b c Stedman 2011, p. 42.
  13. ^ Jones 2010, p. 130.
  14. ^ Laurie Magnus, The West Riding Territorials in the Great War, London: Keegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1920//Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2004, ISBN 1-845740-77-7, pp. 131–2.

Further reading

  • Alexander Barrie. War Underground – The Tunnellers of the Great War. ISBN 1-871085-00-4.
  • The Work of the Royal Engineers in the European War 1914 -1919, – MILITARY MINING.
  • Jones, Simon (2010). Underground Warfare 1914-1918. Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 978-1-84415-962-8.
  • Arthur Stockwin (ed.), Thirty-odd Feet Below Belgium: An Affair of Letters in the Great War 1915-1916, Parapress (2005), ISBN 978-1-89859-480-2 (online).

External links

This page was last edited on 26 April 2019, at 17:56
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