What We Discuss with Ben Lamm:
- Colossal Biosciences is a company working to bring back animals that, for a variety of reasons, have disappeared from the world stage in a process it calls “de-extinction.”
- Colossal’s current focus is inserting genes from the iconic woolly mammoth into Asian elephant embryos with the goal of creating hybrid elephant-mammoths that can survive the Arctic tundra.
- Colossal believes these modified woolly mammoths could help restore the Arctic ecosystem and sequester carbon to reduce the rate of climate change.
- Additionally, this research will help scientists learn more about — and more effectively treat — elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), a disease among modern Asian elephant populations with a mortality rate of up to 85 percent.
- Colossal is still in the early stages of development, but it hopes to have the first hybrid mammoths within a decade.
- And much more…
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The iconic woolly mammoth hasn’t roamed the Earth for 4,000 years, but thanks to genetic engineering company Colossal Biosciences, we may see herds of them trumpeting across the arctic tundra in the not-too-distant future. It’s not the fantastical grist of a Michael Crichton novel, but the results of real science harnessed by visionaries to make a big difference (literally) to a planet in crisis.
On this episode, we’re joined by Colossal co-founder Ben Lamm to explain the logistics — as well as ethical pros and cons — of “de-extincting” lost species like the woolly mammoth and giving them a second chance in a world more enlightened to their ecosystemic contributions than the one they left behind. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Miss our conversation with tech entrepreneur Rob Reid about the potential for synthetic biology to be leveraged for very good — and very bad — outcomes in the not-too-distant future? Catch up with episode 244: Rob Reid | Synthetic Biology for Medicine and Murder here!
Thanks, Ben Lamm!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Solving the Colossal Problem of Extinction | Colossal
- The World’s Greatest Explorers Meet Here | The Explorers Club
- Ben Lamm | Instagram
- Ben Lamm | LinkedIn
- Ben Lamm | Twitter
- Forrest Galante | Seeking Unicorns and Resurrecting the Dodo | Jordan Harbinger
- Colossal Aims to Revive Woolly Mammoths by 2028, Says CEO Ben Lamm at SXSW Conference | Silicon Hills News
- George Church | Wyss Institute
- Jurassic Park | Prime Video
- Jurassic Park: A Novel by Michael Crichton | Amazon
- Stephen’s Pretty Sure George Church Said He’s Going To Live Forever | The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
- Woolly Mammoth Revival | Revive & Restore
- Narcolepsy | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory | Smithsonian’s National Zoo
- Elephants Are the Pillars of Africa’s Ecosystems and They Need Our Support | African Wildlife Foundation
- Four Reasons Why the Environment Needs Elephants | GVI
- Restore High Productive Grazing Ecosystems in the Arctic | Pleistocene Park
- Large Asian Animals Are Successfully Coexisting with Humans | Earth.com
- Finding the Cause of Mammoth Extinction | The Scientist Magazine
- 30,000-Year-Old Woolly Mammoth Baby Found in Yukon Permafrost | Smithsonian Magazine
- Scientists Plan to De-Extinct the Dodo! | Ancient Origins
- Why a ‘De-Extinction’ Company Wants to Bring Animals Like the Woolly Mammoth to North Dakota | Inforum
- The Saint | Prime Video
- What Is the Sixth Mass Extinction and What Can We Do about It? | WWF
- Scientists Debate the Ethics of an Unnerving Gene-Editing Technique | The Washington Post
- Alta Charo on De-Extinction and Conservation Bioethics | Colossal Biosciences
- Cecil the Lion Killer Dentist Walter Palmer Inundated with One-Star Yelp Reviews | The Independent
- Jimmy John’s: Listen to Your Customers and Stop Your Trophy Hunting | Change.org
- The Next 500 Years: Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds by Christopher E. Mason | Amazon
- Life Will Find a Way: Could Scientists Make Jurassic Park a Reality? | The Guardian
- Steller’s Sea Cow: The First Historical Extinction of Marine Mammal at Human Hands | Natural History Museum
- Why Did New Zealand’s Moas Go Extinct? | Science
- Outdoor Cats Are an Invasive Species and a Threat to Themselves, Scientists Say | Salon
- Australians Open to Using Genetic Technology to Manage Feral Cats | CSIRO
- Five Surprising Facts about the Spotted-Tailed Quoll | WWF Australia
- Introduction of Cane Toads | National Museum of Australia
- Melbourne Scientists Are Trying to Edit Quoll DNA to Make Them Cane-Toad Proof | The Sydney Morning Herald
- Back from Extinction: Resurrecting the Tasmanian Tiger | Al Jazeera
914: Ben Lamm | Resurrecting the Woolly Mammoth
This transcript is yet untouched by human hands. Please proceed with caution as we sort through what the robots have given us. We appreciate your patience!
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to Nissan for sponsoring this episode of the Jordan Harbinger Show. Coming up next on the Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:06] Ben Lamm: If we could grow 20 northern white rhinos or 100 northern white rhinos with engineered and genetic diversity back into Africa and save that species and open source that tech for anyone in conservation.
[00:00:24] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On the Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. Our mission is to help you become a better informed, more critical thinker through long form conversations with a variety of amazing folks, CEOs, athletes, authors, thinkers, and performers, even the occasional hostage negotiator, economic hitman, Fortune 500 CEO, or legendary Hollywood filmmaker.
[00:00:52] And if you're new to the show, or you want to tell your friends about the show, I suggest our episode starter packs. These are collections of our favorite episodes on persuasion and negotiation, psychology and geopolitics, disinformation and cyberwarfare, crime and cults, and more, that'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show.
[00:01:08] Just visit jordanharbinger. com slash start, or search for us in your Spotify app to get started. By the way, before you all tweet at me or email me, there's gonna be no episode this Thursday because I'm taking a little bit of time off. Not a ton, because it's only one episode, but a little. Enough. Maybe catch my breath.
[00:01:23] Today, many of you were super interested in our last episode with Forrest Galante, where we discussed bringing back extinct animals. I was also, of course, fascinated by this, and I wanted to bring on the CEO of Colossal Biosciences, the company at the forefront of de extinction. Starting with the woolly mammoth that we mentioned on that episode.
[00:01:42] Today we'll dive into why this is a good idea, and not just Jurassic Park 2. 0, or whatever version we're on right now, only in real life. And we'll talk about how this can be done and on what timeline and why the Wooly Mammoth is actually the best place to start. It's an amazing time to be alive, folks.
[00:01:58] All right, here we go with Ben Lamb.
[00:02:05] Tell us what you're doing in a nutshell, because when I first heard it, I was like, oh, I saw an ad on Instagram. And I was like, Oh, this is fake or something. This is like a satirical thing that doesn't exist because they're trying to test us and get clicks and then like dot, dot, dot, steal
[00:02:19] Ben Lamm: my identity, but it's real.
[00:02:20] It would be a very expensive, very late, you know, it's like we have 114 scientists and 30, like. Academic partners and postdocs around the world is like, be a very expensive joke, expensive grift man. Like it's all, it's all a big hoax. There's yeah, I think we've seen online that there's much easier ways to steal people's identity.
[00:02:41] I think so. Like just, just say that you're a Nigerian prince and send my grandmother an email, but you don't have to do it this way. So we started a company called Colossal. I was mesmerized by George Church. And his all the incredible ideas that he had. And, uh, we started a company colossal, which is to our knowledge, the world's first de extinction and species preservation company.
[00:03:02] And, and what that means is we're working to bring back. Extinct species, or at least proxies of them, at least as much as you can, uh, with the DNA that's recovered, and build technologies that help human healthcare, and help, and build technologies that could be helpful for conservation, and, and we want to subsidize that and give all that conservation tech to the world.
[00:03:21] Jordan Harbinger: The ad I saw was something like... Hey, we're gonna bring back the Wooly Mammoth, and that's why I was like, yeah, whatever, this is clearly fake, but I happened to be that day talking with Forrest Galante, and I was like, hey man, have you heard of this, and he's like, actually, I know all about this, and I'm on the board, and I was like, wait, wait, wait, so this is not fake, this is a real thing, and he explained it, and then I, of course, said this to him, and he said, I should definitely say this to you, because it's probably annoying, and you hear it all the time, um, and This is kind of the idea behind Jurassic Park, right?
[00:03:50] I mean, you had to be influenced by this movie.
[00:03:51] Ben Lamm: Believe it or not, we have heard that before. Yeah. Um, it's come up before. I think the theme music now just plays every time any of us goes into an office. But, uh, you know, what's interesting about Jurassic Park is I think it did a really good job of like showcasing and teaching the world that genetic engineering is a thing, you know, now we're not doing exactly what Jurassic Park was.
[00:04:12] They were taking ancient DNA, dino DNA. from Amber, which you can't get, trust me, you can't get it. We've tried. Um, you just, not that I've tried, but I'm telling you definitively, you cannot get DNA from Amber. Um, it's porous, it's bad, anyways, it doesn't preserve well. But then they were filling in the holes and the gaps of the dino DNA with frog DNA.
[00:04:33] Think of us as doing the exact reverse, which I think is arguably a lot easier. We're taking the Asian elephant genome and other genomes that we know produce an Asian elephant. And then we're identifying the genes from the woolly mammoth genome that made a mammoth a mammoth, and then we're engineering those into architecture that we already know works, right?
[00:04:53] So I like to think of it as we're slightly smarter Jurassic Park, but what's interesting is that George Church's original sequence that he did, and I forgot what it was on, it was on yeast or something, actually from his research, shows up in Michael Crichton's book. Wow. So if you want to be technical, I would argue that Jurassic Park, uh, was inspired by George.
[00:05:16] So, um, in a way, I think it's completely the other way around, and we just, he's not getting the right royalties on it, but yeah. Right, I like that
[00:05:23] Jordan Harbinger: argument. That's a very lawyerly argument, right? Like, no, we were not, we didn't copy Jurassic Park. They copied my co founder, George Church, who's, for people who are listening, he's kind of like the OG, he's like the Mick Jagger DNA.
[00:05:36] I'm sure he... Would roll with that.
[00:05:38] Ben Lamm: Yeah, he is the father of synthetic biology and you know, he's six seven has narcolepsy and he's insanely smart and what's weird about, you know, your origin story of how you got interested in or even like, is this real? That was my moment too, I called George Church about something completely different.
[00:05:56] I wanted to build a computational biology software platform, uh, leveraging AI. I was like, could we build, cause I come mostly from software. Could we go build something that's really interesting in synthetic biology? So I was like, who do you call? Well, let's call the man. Well, he answered my question like seven minutes and then I had all this time.
[00:06:11] So I was like, well, what else you got? So he starts talking about regenerating neurons and sequencing and DNA synthesis and all of these things he's doing. And then he ends with. Like, we have like two minutes left on the call, and he's like, Well, and also I'm working to bring back Wooly Mammoth to re wild the Arctic to save the world from carbon and methane, and I'll make billions of dollars in carbon credits.
[00:06:30] I have to go to my next meeting now. And I thought it was like, like, was this a moment where, like, he's showing his, like, funny side? If it is a joke, it's the longest joke ever from George. And then he, like, hung up, and I was like, wait, the greatest thing I've ever heard was just said to me, and then he had to go.
[00:06:47] So I stayed up all night just reading George Church interviews, watching him on Colbert show in 60 minutes and all these things. And there was a mammoth route line. So whenever he was talking about the mammoth would come back. And it was like making this cameo in every single thing. So I, I was like, I have to learn more.
[00:07:03] So I was on the phone with him the next day. I was like, can I come see you? And he was like, which I thought the answer was no. He's like, sure. I was like, what about next Thursday? He's like, great. So within a week, like I went from this like last 30 second pitch that he gave me to in his lab. And then we decided we should go do this.
[00:07:22] Wow. It's crazy. Yeah. But I had that moment like you, where I was like, this is insane.
[00:07:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Like, I thought this guy was well respected, and here he is telling me he's gonna bring back the woolly mammoth? Like, is this guy... Is this the beginning of the downward slope where everyone's like, what happened to that guy?
[00:07:35] He used to be... Yeah.
[00:07:37] Ben Lamm: Yeah, he turned left. He was like going straight for a long time, then he took a hard left and everyone's like, wait, what? Also,
[00:07:43] Jordan Harbinger: I love that you describe one of his chief qualities as has narcolepsy, which tells me that you've been out to eat with him and he's just like falling asleep with a fork in
[00:07:50] Ben Lamm: his mouth or something like that.
[00:07:50] He has definitely like muffeted out on a zoom or two. So I know I'm not being interesting if he's looking at the ceiling, damn it. I grew up with
[00:07:59] Jordan Harbinger: a family friend who had it and he would routinely, like we'd be eating a salad at dinner and he's just like asleep. And I thought he was being silly because I was a little kid at the time and my mom's like, no, he just actually falls asleep all the time and he can't drive home without, if he doesn't have his medication, like he can't drive because he'll fall asleep.
[00:08:15] Yeah. Yeah. It's um. I don't think it's a matter of being boring, but it, but yeah, it's a good, it never feels good when the person you're talking to is immediately put out by whatever you're saying, regardless of the health conditions. So why, why the mammoth? You said it was kind of something he had come up with and talked about before, but why not start with like a worm or a bug or a smaller animal, like some kind of sheep or something
[00:08:36] Ben Lamm: like that?
[00:08:37] Something that doesn't require 22 months of gestation and is endangered.
[00:08:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Or it doesn't exist at all anymore,
[00:08:42] Ben Lamm: right? For us, it's easy, right? We wanted George, we wanted his technologies. He had been working on it for eight years. We had a major lead. He had identified the genes that he believed made a mammoth a mammoth.
[00:08:53] He had all the core sequencing and engineering tech. So, you know, you kind of got the mammoth with George, right? The package deal. Yeah, it's package deal. But why he was interested in the mammoths is he doesn't want to lose elephants and working on the mammoth kind of gives you an excuse to build all these technologies which can help elephants so we can understand more about elephant behavior, human elephant conflict, how to gestate elephants, even long term ex utero and, and like artificial wombs.
[00:09:20] How we can eradicate a disease called EEHV, which kills about 25 percent of elephants year round. Most people don't know this, but EEHV is the largest killer of elephants in the world, not poaching. And so, if we can eradicate that disease, well, we could save more elephants than... all other elephant conservation combined worldwide.
[00:09:38] And so it's something that's really fascinating, but as you could probably guess, there's no big total addressable market in, in building a business of pure elephant herpes. Yeah. But if you're building a mammoth and doing all these other interesting things, you know, it can be one of the by products along the way that you can go focus on.
[00:09:55] And then he's very passionate. of this whole concept of Pleistocene rewilding, like how do we, you know, jumpstart the ecological system that was this mammoth steppe that's now this like Arctic tundra. And he's been working with Siberian scientists and scientists in Canada and in the Arctic slope and seeing that they've shown that if you can build the right ecosystem with enough biodiversity at the right density levels, you can actually lower ground temperatures by up to eight degrees year round, which is insane because there's more carbon and more methane stored in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet.
[00:10:32] Double what's in the atmosphere. And methane, just so you know, is about 30 times worse than CO2 in the atmosphere. Yeah. So if we can preserve that and build kind of this lush nitrogen oxygen cycle in the winters and summers with the right level of biodiversity there, you know, we can make a material impact on, you know, kind of rejuvenating this ecosystem, which used to be really, really lush.
[00:10:55] and really valuable for carbon sequestration. And so that was his vision. What are mammoths
[00:11:00] Jordan Harbinger: doing in the Arctic that somehow keeps, they're heavy and they're big, that's all I
[00:11:06] Ben Lamm: got. Yes, yes, which they're great store, carbon stores in themselves, right? Like elephants are. But four kind of really big things.
[00:11:12] You know, number one, just any big grazing population that is eating and defecating and spreading, does a better job of creating more biodiversity in the plant life that's there. So you have kind of that rich oxygen nitrogen cycle where you have these large herbivores, number one. Number two, elephants, which I didn't, you know, at the time I was like, wait, are we starting a war against trees here, George, because he was like, well, elephants love knocking down trees.
[00:11:37] And I was like, is that a good thing? Yeah, we're supposed to plant trees. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. But it turns out there's been studies that have shown that, uh, two different studies that have shown that elephants actually, like forest elephants, are incredible environmental modifiers where they actually knock down down and destroy the trees that are the least efficient of carbon, just naturally, which is just amazing.
[00:12:00] And that gives room for the other more, more carbon efficient trees to exist. And in the Arctic, that taiga forest, they are not a very efficient carbon sequestration trees. They're actually like these almost like heat lightning rods that don't store carbon very well. They're super dark bark. It collects the energy from the sun.
[00:12:17] and permeates it down into the root structure, and it actually warms it up even more. But if, so if you can transform that kind of tundra, uh, ecosystem more into an arctic grassland, we find that's about six times more efficient at storing carbon than the taiga forest number one. And then it's about two to three times more efficient at what's called the albedo effect, which is light reflection from space.
[00:12:39] So anything that's not absorbed. by those Arctic grasses, it gets restored from space. And then the last thing is this whole, you know, massive kind of grazing and herding mentality. They've shown in Pleistocene Park in Siberia that with the right population density of musk ox and bison and some horses, that they've actually been able to lower the ground temperatures.
[00:13:02] I update degrees because what happens in the winter months is they actually compact that snow and what that allows for is the arctic winter winds which are the cooling effect that actually it permeates deeper than it would be on that fluffy layer because it's closer to the
[00:13:17] Jordan Harbinger: ground not insulated yeah
[00:13:19] Ben Lamm: Exactly.
[00:13:20] So the ground gets colder and stays colder longer. So if you start to melt something at, you know, negative 20 versus negative 14 degrees, you know, the negative 20 is going to stay cold longer and
[00:13:32] Jordan Harbinger: frozen longer. This is just one of those amazing, like, isn't nature amazing where you just look at, okay, so they're trampling things down, they're packing snow down, they're knocking down trees that are weak and inefficient and also store heat.
[00:13:44] And they're also doing all this other stuff that helps store carbon. And it's like. This is why when humans mess with the, the ecosystem deliberately or otherwise, it, by killing things, it just has all those knock on effects that nobody ever would have thought about. Like, why is this getting hotter? Well, actually, the mammoths are gone, and like, here's all these dominoes.
[00:14:02] I'm guessing also that with a big mammal... You can unring the bell if you're like, Oh, speaking of it, altering the environment. Now this thing we never thought about is happening. But with a bird, it's like, well, we're screwed now. We're never getting all those things or some sort of worm. It's like we're never, we got to go catch
[00:14:17] Ben Lamm: these things.
[00:14:17] Yeah, we could, we, you know, we, we do want to be mindful of intended versus unintended consequences. The nice thing about, you know, thousand pound assets is that you could like watch them and like, help them and you can like, you know, I think we can be more mindful of their disbursement into the ecosystem.
[00:14:34] But there was a paper that just came out, uh, a couple of months ago around tropic downgrading. This whole concept that if you remove keystone animals from the environment, specifically predators like they did in Yellowstone, it has this cascading effect when the food chain on the food web on carbon and whatnot.
[00:14:50] And I forgot the number, but it's like. Nine species, which elephants were one of them, if we make more of them and we protect them, they can offset like all of like car emissions. Like it's crazy. That is your nature based solution. So I do think that there's, you know, to your point, Nate, we saw this in the pandemic.
[00:15:08] Nature can like, Repair stuff pretty quick if we kind of give it a chance. Yeah, give it a
[00:15:14] Jordan Harbinger: little bit of a boost and stop messing with it, I suppose. Yeah. So how many mammoths do you need? Not millions, I assume, because that's gonna be tricky.
[00:15:21] Ben Lamm: Yeah, and And they have a long gestational cycle, right? So there's 22 months of gestation that's required.
[00:15:27] Just for birth and then it's about 12 years to sexual maturity in most elephants, right? And and we're not looking at this point to engineer and try to speed that up. Maybe there's ways in the future But right now we're not from a pure synthetic biology perspective. We're not currently working on that So it takes a long time for those populations to truly grow So we're our goal is to start with hundreds then we want to move to thousands We can make a material different with difference from our modeling with you know, low thousands.
[00:15:53] That's incredible That's
[00:15:54] Jordan Harbinger: so in a few decades. This could be a thing. That's actually
[00:15:57] Ben Lamm: Doing something a thing. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, we got it. So everything, all the species that we're working on, uh, is through Sarah C, you know, for the most part had to be right. What's so weird about my life now is that the D extinction part of the business doesn't feel like science fiction because I just, I know where the teams are and I know the process kind of like software.
[00:16:17] It's a systems model that we had to go build to tackle on it. The thing that's the most science fiction to me right now is the exterior development. And we've had this incredible 17 person team of women and men that are working to, you know, grow animals ex utero and, you know, it's very early stages. I don't think any of our genuine animals will come from ex utero development, but you know, if we are successful in that, I think that that's even a bigger game changer for conservation than all of our genetic engineering.
[00:16:43] Like if we could grow 20 northern white rhinos or 100 northern white rhinos with engineered and genetic diversity, then we could reintroduce them with, you know, mindful partners in the conservation world back into Africa and save that species and, you know, open source that tech for anyone in conservation.
[00:17:03] So that's the science fiction part of where I think we are today.
[00:17:06] Jordan Harbinger: I love that. I feel like there's so many cool ideas that come out of this and it's like you can give a lot of them away because the business model is kind of over here. But this other tech that you can, that can change the world, but maybe isn't super profitable is over here.
[00:17:17] And it's like, all right, fine. We're going to sell these external wombs for use in, I don't know, agricultural breeding or even human fertility. But like, oh, these endangered species? You can just use that stuff too because it exists.
[00:17:28] Ben Lamm: Look, we're not as cool as NASA. Like, I think I would argue NASA, like, stands for hope and meaning, and it's arguably...
[00:17:35] You know, when the U. S. is doing stuff right or wrong, you know, I still think NASA persists, right? I think it's one of those, like, things that the whole world can get behind. And looking to that Apollo program as, you know, a literal moonshot is kind of the inspiration that all these technologies came off of it.
[00:17:52] Some of what, you know, some people talk about Tang, but some of these technologies are, like, fundamental to, like, internet communication, like, right now, right? And so, like, those are trillion dollar industries that came off of that. And so... You know, we've already spun out our first technology company, which is a computational biology platform.
[00:18:08] You know, even the pieces to the artificial womb could be helpful. Like right now we've got this really cool hydrogel system that's leveraging AI, computer vision, and a little bit of robotics and microfluidics to basically keep embryos healthier, longer at their different developmental stages. So even before you get into the, like the super sci fi.
[00:18:30] You know, artificial wounds for all these different animals or, or humans or whatnot. Just that system, if we could make embryos healthier, longer from an IVF perspective, that's really interesting. Yeah. Right. Like that can be really helpful. So I think there's a lot of these technologies that, you know, can be.
[00:18:46] monetizable, even on the path to our
[00:18:49] Jordan Harbinger: bigger goals. Mammoths have been extinct for 4, 000 years, something like that, right? Yeah. And were they hunted to extinction? Yeah, so there's some debate
[00:18:57] Ben Lamm: on this, right? Some people are like, mammoths were not hunted to extinction because the last mammoth died on Wrangel Island, then they were an isolated population through inbreeding.
[00:19:07] And through a genetic bottleneck, but you know, there's lots of evidence that show that early man, you know, hunted and killed mammoths. There are spear marks in mammoths. There's actual mammoth, uh, tusks and teeth that were in bones that were used in early, uh, man's, uh, weapons and, and art. And, and, you know, they're in France, there's cave drawings of mammoths.
[00:19:25] So we know that there was this coexistence. What's interesting about, you know, some people say, well, it would have been impossible for humans to kill all mammoths. But I think the combination of the climate changing And early man's influence, like you can't, there, there has been an interesting study last year that shows that the rise of early man and the fall of mammoths were directly inverse.
[00:19:45] Right. And that goes back to the fact that you don't have to kill off all the mammoths to eradicate them. Like you would do the thylacine. Right. Cause the thylacine in Australia, you know, it's, it had 13 and a half day gestation. They can produce very, very quickly, but with 22 month gestation. Single calves, for the most part, there have been a couple twins, but for the most part, single calves, and, you know, 13 years of sexual maturity, you only have to kill off enough, right, because then the population goes into a slump and, you know, it kind of just kills itself over time because you have natural predation and other things outside of early man.
[00:20:20] So if you just impact those numbers enough, you will, you know, cause that unfortunate demise. How does the process
[00:20:27] Jordan Harbinger: work in, in briefy? Okay. No mosquitoes trapped in a piece of Amber. Got it. Do you find a Tuscan bones in like a mine somewhere? And then you're like, all right. We're going to drill into this thing and get some DNA out of there.
[00:20:39] So you can get it in
[00:20:39] Ben Lamm: a lot of different places. Different animals have different ways of extracting the DNA, but I'll talk about mammoths. And to your mind question, I was just in North Dakota where they just discovered another with the governor and team there, and they just discovered in a working mine.
[00:20:55] Or partially entire, uh, mammoth that had actually soft tissue on it.
[00:20:59] Jordan Harbinger: God, imagine finding that. You're digging for some bauxite or whatever, I don't even know what that is, but, and you're like,
[00:21:04] Ben Lamm: what, it's a tusk. Yeah, and then you're like, well, here's a tusk, right? That's exactly what they saw first, they saw a tusk.
[00:21:09] And so, in the permafrost and other areas that are extremely cold, mammoths would die. They'd freeze very quickly and then they'd get layers, no layers, no layers. So unlike hot, wet environments where they just decompose very, very quickly. And so for us though, it's still very degraded. So you can get DNA from tusks, from some bone, some soft tissue.
[00:21:30] Teeth is a great area to get, uh, DNA specifically for it's, it's stored really well, uh, there. And so for us to get, to build kind of the. What we need, it's not a true reference genome, but to build kind of the framework of a reference genome that we could use, it actually takes about, it took us about 54 mammoth genomes.
[00:21:48] So about five of those were public, about five of those, uh, Arianna Husseli, our head of biological sciences and the mammoth lead. who worked for George and went to Siberia with George. They got about five of those, uh, from, uh, retrieving them from the permafrost. And then one of our collaborators, Luba Dolan in University of Stockholm, who's incredible.
[00:22:06] He actually is one of the top mammoth researchers in the world. He, you know, let us leverage 44 of his unpublished mammoth genomes. So it's kind of that assembly. of all of that in that analysis that you can really start to understand was this the gene that caused X or this a cluster of genes that caused X or was this diversity and so you really have to get to the population genomics level so that you can start understanding and narrowing down your targets.
[00:22:31] Jordan Harbinger: Right because otherwise if you have just a damaged piece of DNA you don't know if that missing part is the one that's whole on this other specimen or if that was totally different in both of those species. Yeah or
[00:22:42] Ben Lamm: was this the Wrangel Island piece and like This piece of DNA is going to be really bad, right?
[00:22:46] Uh, yeah, we were able to produce it. So there's a lot of computation. So George, as I mentioned, did six to eight years of analysis. The tools have come a long way. We built an entire software company around doing the analysis of the mammoth and then spun it out. But yeah, doing that work and leveraging the latest tools has been critical.
[00:23:05] And we have about, it was about 65. It's grown a little bit. It's now in the low 70s. There's about 70 targeted. genes that drive all the core phenotypes that have been lost in the elephant lineage. So if
[00:23:19] Jordan Harbinger: the DNA from one animal specimen is damaged, can you use DNA from another specimen to fill in the gaps?
[00:23:26] Ben Lamm: the kind of Jurassic Park question. Think of it exactly reverse. We use the DNA of the Asian elephant, which is 99. 6 percent the same as a mammoth, as the reference genome. So we build. a reference genome, which we were the first to ever build a reference genome for the Asian elephant and the African elephant.
[00:23:42] And once again, that is conservation benefit. So we published that, we give that to the world, and then we use that as our map, right? Because we know that DNA was taken from a live elephant. So we know that this DNA and this map. produce this elephant because we took the blood from it, right? We know that that worked.
[00:23:59] And then we use that to build, and that with other elephants, to build a reference genome that we can do comparison from. But what's interesting is that, uh, this is an interesting stat that I learned in this process. An Asian elephant is 99% point six percent a woolly mammoth. Genetically, it's actually closer to a mammoth than an Asian elephant is to an African elephant.
[00:24:22] Really? I wouldn't have guessed that. I mean, I thought that African elephants and Asian elephants were just so close. Well, yeah. I had no idea that the mammoths were actually
[00:24:30] Jordan Harbinger: closer. I thought it wouldn't be like the difference between somebody with blue eyes and somebody with brown eyes or like dark hair and light hair.
[00:24:35] Ben Lamm: kind of what I figured. Exactly. Wow. But Asian elephants and African elephants can actually still interbreed and produce viable offspring. It's a weird biology's. So weird.
[00:24:44] Jordan Harbinger: Strange. It's so, it's so amazing. So, so this becomes, not like a kymera, but like a hybrid species with d n a from non extinct species.
[00:24:52] It sounds like you're adding the, the mammoth d n a to the elephant, not the other way around. So it's, you're kind of adding the cold weather, you're adding the hair and et cetera. And the fact. I'm sure there's more. There's more under
[00:25:03] Ben Lamm: the hood too, but um, and kind of subsystems and how they work and curved tusk and there's a lot more to it.
[00:25:09] But, but directionally 100 percent accurate in terms of how you're thinking about it. But all animals are effectively hybrids. I was on a podcast or interview like a couple months ago and I, I got into this like philosophical debate and this guy was not happy with me, which is fine. It's not a real mammoth.
[00:25:25] Yeah. Well, they went, they were good at the donor. They're like, A dodo is just, you're not building a dodo, you're building a stupid, this is a direct quote I think, it was like, a stupid looking, uh, pigeon, and I was like, but sir, dodos were pigeons. I didn't know that. They were, like, they are pigeons. Dodos are stupid looking pigeons.
[00:25:43] A mammoth is a hairy elephant. Those are just facts, and so we get in, for a while we had this percentage of people that were like, we don't believe it's possible, and then, Then they kind of turn to oh, no, maybe it's possible, but we don't know if you should do it And then we try to explain why we're doing like But it's not a hundred percent.
[00:26:01] I was like, well, my right. My dog is a rescue and she's awesome. I mean, she's a hundred percent dog, but she's not purebred. And so it's like, where do you draw the lines? Like if an Asian elephant can interbreed with a mammoth, does that mean that it's not a man? All species go through a hybridization process that creates a new species.
[00:26:20] That, that is the process. So there, there is a percentage of people that like to argue the semantics of what we're doing, but I, it just doesn't affect me.
[00:26:32] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to the Jordan Harbinger show with our guest, Ben lamb. We'll be right back. This episode is sponsored in part by Nissan. These days, too many people have to settle for the next best thing, especially when it comes to choosing a car, but at Nissan, there's a vehicle type for everyone, for every driver who wants more.
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[00:27:17] And that's why I like that Nissan wants to help people find their more. More freedom, more adventure, or even just more fun. So thanks again to Nissan for sponsoring this episode of the Jordan Harbinger Show. And for the reminder to find your more, learn more at nissanusa. com. This episode is also sponsored by BetterHelp.
[00:27:32] Ever find yourself yearning for a nourishing salad, fully aware of its benefits, only for your mind to conjure up images of a gooey pizza? That's our brain's sneaky way of diverting us, and we've all felt it, knowing what's right, yet being swayed by conflicting desires. This mental push and pull is exactly where therapy can be transformative, navigating you through these cognitive challenges and ensuring your choices mirror what's truly good for you.
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[00:28:24] So make your brain your friend with BetterHelp. Visit BetterHelp. com slash Jordan today to get 10 percent off your first month. That's BetterHelp, H E L P dot com slash Jordan. If you're wondering how I managed to book all these great authors, thinkers, and creators every single week, well, it's because of my network, the circle of people that I know, like, and trust.
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[00:29:08] And many of the guests on our show already subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us. You'll be in smart company. Once again, the course is at jordanharbinger. com slash course. Now, back to Ben Lam. On that same annoying line of thought, is it really a mammoth if it's just the DNA but it's not raised by other mammoths?
[00:29:27] I mean, I guess what I'm asking is, they don't have the same habits of other mammoths, because they're not raised by like a mammoth mom. Yeah. I asked this of Forrest, because I was like, is this, how's it going to learn how to do mammoth stuff? Like. That's a
[00:29:37] Ben Lamm: great question, right? And so, so a couple things.
[00:29:40] We work with a lot of different partners around the world, so we've been fortunate. We're. Partners with Elephant Havens and International Elephant Foundation and Save the Elephants. A lot of people are like, but do we think conservation groups hate you? I was like, well, you've been to our homepage because it's on our homepage.
[00:29:53] But in all seriousness, you know, you can learn a lot from existing. Folks that have been working in this for decades. And so, you know, Elephant Havens, for example, we're working on a project right now, leveraging computer vision and AI to understand herd dynamics and rewilding of orphaned elephants.
[00:30:11] They're a great group in Botswana that focuses on looking at elephants and saving orphaned elephants and helping rebuild herds for rewilding, right? And so for us, we can learn from that. We can try to be a little bit smarter and layer in. AI and computer vision. So it doesn't always have to be a human in the loop scenario that kind of comes from our tech background.
[00:30:31] And then we can apply that, you know, to our herds. And I didn't know this either, because I always think of like Asian elephant tropical equals hot, right? Like in my very simple cave brand, my knee and earth all brand. Um, but there's interesting, we've actually worked with some groups in Canada that have Asian elephants that you once again follows that kind of same line that in Canada and in the winter They you know, they sleep in barns or whatever.
[00:30:53] They can't go to like negative 40, but they actually let them out They break through the ice. They swim in frozen lakes. I have man I have videos of mammoths like playing with like snowballs and stuff and they're just rolling around Having a great time, like not like, and these are elephant behaviorists that are with them that aren't like, these are like distressed mammoths.
[00:31:11] They like, can't wait to like play in the snow. And it's the same thing for mammoths. Mammoths actually went into pretty warm temperatures too. And so those ecosystems still exist that can survive that, but even an Asian elephant today raised by an Asian elephant mom can survive and start playing around in a snow filled environment.
[00:31:30] Right, okay. Yeah. You
[00:31:31] Jordan Harbinger: said mammoths, but you meant elephants. I was like, you already have mammoths. Oh yeah, yeah. Sorry. No, they're elephants in the cold water. They're
[00:31:36] Ben Lamm: aged elephants playing in
[00:31:37] Jordan Harbinger: the water. Yes. That does make sense. And so what you end up with is, and again, I'm not trying to be like, it's not a real mammoth bro, but it's a proxy species, an animal that holds Its same place in the Yeah.
[00:31:46] Ben Lamm: Ecosystem. Right, exactly. It's an animal holds in with the core genes and traits that have been lost to that lineage. Right. So, gotcha. The definition of de-extinction, like on Wikipedia is like, The bringing back of it, or, or, or creation, I think they may have added this for us. We did not add it though, of a proxy species that even resembles that of the extinct species.
[00:32:07] Yeah. So, um, it's a new category. So it's constantly evolving and being redefined. I
[00:32:13] Jordan Harbinger: assume you're not going to make the mammal down there in Austin because it seems like something with a ton of hair would be uncomfortable in that hot climate. Maybe you can speak to from personal experience. Yeah. All my hairiest friends don't last very long in Texas.
[00:32:25] It seems like a mammoth would be no
[00:32:26] Ben Lamm: exception. Our two biggest labs are in Dallas and you know, it's until today it was No, 111. And so all the core engineering is happening in Boston. And then we will start to look for not just rewilding locations, but raising locations. And so, uh, we just announced, uh, we actually didn't really announce it.
[00:32:46] And it, but it, it did get. out in the press. Uh, we just announced a partnership with North Dakota. Um, you know, we are talking to other states as well. We're talking to Canada. We're talking to some folks all over kind of the, not just the Arctic circle, but circle polar North, which is even bigger. Yeah. I got to spend about 10 days in Alaska last year meeting with lieutenant governor and a bunch of folks, but we just did a partnership with North Dakota that the government actually invested in colossal, which is great.
[00:33:11] Yeah. And so we're long term Calabria and we want to build, it's a great location because they actually get down to negative 30 in parts during the winter in North Dakota. And so it's a great state that, you know, I think could be a really, it's one, we haven't made a definitive decision, but it could be a place where we have early mammoth calves.
[00:33:28] Um, because it's got a pretty temperate summer and then a great winter for them. I'm always like, this
[00:33:33] Jordan Harbinger: is so great, it's such, I'm so optimistic about this kind of stuff, but what about other general public perception, you know, how do we get the whole world on board with something that is so radical?
[00:33:42] Because you certainly must be getting letters from people that are like, this is against what you know, nature intended and you're, this is demonic of you, or just like you're
[00:33:51] Ben Lamm: insane. We get a lot of feedback. Um, yeah, feedback. Feedback. Um, but you know, before I answer that, let me, I want to say one thing about kind of the last thing.
[00:34:00] What I didn't know about this business, which I found really interesting, was it's very hard to build a system that, you know, has computational analysis and has this Indiana Jones ancient DNA component, has this Jurassic Park genetic engineering component, has this conservation department. But what I did, that's all hard.
[00:34:17] That's all real hard building tech. That's all very difficult. Software and technology and sciences, biology is not easy, but what I didn't anticipate is we spend and have teams as many teams working on working with the public, working with the governments. working with legislators, working with non profits, working with indigenous people groups.
[00:34:38] Like today I was on the phone with one of the largest indigenous people groups in the United States, you know, just hearing their cultural feedback and, and what we're doing. So we, we try to take a very inclusive strategy, which gets into your, your question, but there's a lot around the company that has nothing to do with making a mammoth or a dodo or a thylacine.
[00:34:56] There's so much around the company that also you have to do and be very mindful of. If, if we could just stay in our lab and make mammoths and then, Someone could just run with it from there. That'd be awesome. Uh, but there's a lot of extra around it that I did not necessarily anticipate from day one. In public sentiment, you know, we've garnered, you know, 70 billion media impressions since launch.
[00:35:17] We haven't even, you know, produced an animal. And so people are pretty excited. Interestingly enough to your question, 98 percent positive or neutral feedback, and I would consider neutral feedback, at least our PR teams are telling us that neutral feedback is anything that, you know, uh, has both a positive sentiment and it reflects that as well as the negative and it's fair and balanced reporting, right?
[00:35:37] Jordan Harbinger: it. Like, seems interesting. Hope it doesn't ruin the whole planet. Is that neutral feedback? Okay. Yeah.
[00:35:42] Ben Lamm: So for us, we do get a lot of feedback. I will say that we get more positive if you take out neutral. We get significantly more positive, about four to one than negative, which is amazing. And, you know, I think that we've had a very good attitude that some of our top critics, even at launch, like Lou Vidal was a critic at launch.
[00:36:00] Uh, we didn't include him. Davis, he's like, is this like, didn't really know us. We're like, who are these guys out of the blue that are just saying this crazy stuff. And then instead of just ignoring them or complaining about them, we try to reach out to them and try to work with them because. If you are what we call an informed critic, you're pretty smart, and you're informed on, about something that we're doing, and maybe we get, maybe you're totally wrong, but maybe you're totally right and we missed something.
[00:36:25] And so, if we didn't have Lou Vidal, for example, as a part of our project, our work would be significantly harder. And so, we reached out to him and said, what do you not like about what we're doing? Where could we be better? And so we try to run towards critics versus away from them. But once again, that's the category of informed critics.
[00:36:43] There's sometimes we do get annoyed by just like what I call the uninformed critics of like, I'm a curator at some random museum that no one's ever heard of. And I have an opinion on genetic engineering, but I've never taken a genetic engineering class in the world. But I don't believe George Church, the father of genetic engineering, right?
[00:36:58] That feedback. isn't as helpful.
[00:37:02] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. That's, uh, I think we call that haterade in the sphere that I'm in. Yeah, that's it.
[00:37:07] Ben Lamm: Yeah, we do get some haterade. We get some religious debates on it, you know. Yeah. We try to be really mindful and listen to them, you know, from a religious perspective. You know, we think that we play God when we eradicate a species or we destroy the ecosystem that, and so we try to listen and give that feedback, but at the same time, you know, we've also taken the reality is like, we, we're going to do the best we can.
[00:37:30] We're going to do some. We're going to do some shit that's really wrong. We're going to do the best to fix it. And we're going to, we're going to try to do a lot more right than we do wrong. And, you know, we'll try to learn from our mistakes and from the public. But, you know, we're not going to do everything right.
[00:37:43] So we can't please everybody. If
[00:37:45] Jordan Harbinger: there's religious criticism for this, I do wonder how they sort of explain the Noah's Ark thing. Were they like, well, he had direct permission from God. I mean, that's probably the counter, but it's like the guy literally built a boat to save the animals and put them on there.
[00:37:56] I mean, whatever. I don't know. I'm no
[00:37:57] Ben Lamm: expert, but we're fine. But we're also helping biobanks. So, in a way, it's very Noah's Ark ish. It's very Noah's Ark ish, man. Like, we're preserving species, like, that's not a bad thing. Regardless of where you fall on the religious or belief spectrum, if you are doing things to help preserve the value of life...
[00:38:14] That seems like a good thing. Yeah, I would agree. I mean,
[00:38:17] Jordan Harbinger: it's the whole concept of shepherding. I'm, again, no expert on, on religion, but... So, so what is the target date for you petting a mammoth and getting that historic, iconic photo that you've been dreaming about for,
[00:38:27] Ben Lamm: like, a decade or whatever here? Our goal is 2028 for our first cast.
[00:38:31] Oh, wow. And we are on track for that, you know? Really? Um, as you know, Science is hard, engineering's hard, but yeah, I mean, I mean, we have over 35, 37 people, I don't know the exact count off the top of my head, on just the Mammoth team alone. So, um, it's a lot of people. Wow. And we aren't like still thinking about it.
[00:38:48] So we've established multiple cell lines, gone through and expanded the edits list, and we are actually making edits and stacking edits. And we're advancing multiplex editing. There's a couple parts of the project that, you know, are later stage on the gestational side that we will announce maybe later this year or next year, some really interesting milestones on that that have been achieved.
[00:39:09] So we feel confident about that date. You know, if it slips, I think it could slip. months to a year, you know, but it's not going to be like, Oh, in 2050, maybe, right? Like, we feel pretty confident. It's not
[00:39:21] Jordan Harbinger: fusion. We're still 10 years away from fusion. Every five years we
[00:39:24] Ben Lamm: hear that we've been 10 years away from fusion since before
[00:39:27] Jordan Harbinger: I was born.
[00:39:27] Yeah, absolutely. I was going to say, it's something about the sixties when they were doing nuclear kind of initial hopeful
[00:39:32] Ben Lamm: on it. Like I'm the, yeah, we'd all be happy if we get there. And I think, you know, What was that movie we saw about Kilmer and like fusion and we're like, yes, that was
[00:39:40] Jordan Harbinger: the saint where he's stealing the sacred.
[00:39:42] Yeah. From Elizabeth shoe. Who's the person who like invented nuclear fusion. Yeah. I love that you reach out to your critics. I think that's important. I mean, for every white bearded, what was his name? John Hammond. Welcoming you to Jurassic Park, there's a Jeff Goldblum somewhere who's shaking his head and being like, chaos theory, life finds a way, right?
[00:40:00] And you're like, Oh, I better find
[00:40:01] Ben Lamm: out what that means. All the top 10 quotes we get tweeted at quite a lot. I can only imagine. By the same 20 people, but yeah.
[00:40:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, but the same movie nerds. But, but that guy, like the point is he wasn't wrong, right? He was kind of like, well, You know, if they'd asked me, maybe I wouldn't have done the frog DNA thing because wasn't the idea they were going to get off the island because of what they had from the frogs, and then they were going to swim to New York and kill everyone, something like that.
[00:40:24] Ben Lamm: Yeah, the frog DNA allowed them to like, Amorphized sex. And so they were all females, uh, but then they were able to start breeding because they were able to change their sex based on some frogs. Right, right. The
[00:40:37] Jordan Harbinger: asexual reproduction or whatever it was called. Yeah, that's right. Yeah. I'm looking at the collapse of species and things like that.
[00:40:42] And we're slated to lose 50 percent of all biodiversity between now and 2050. And it's just, it's really horrific, you know, a thousand to 10, 000 times higher in terms of loss of species then. natural extinction rate. So what you're doing is providing a backup plan. What do we call it? The sixth extinction crisis or something like that.
[00:40:59] Is that what we're in
[00:41:00] Ben Lamm: right now? Yeah. Six mass extinction. It's completely
[00:41:03] Jordan Harbinger: driven by us. That's the most depressing part is it's, it's something that we could control. And it sounds like colossal is going to be able to speak the language of, of money, right? So while we might take a multi trillion dollar hit from ecosystem decline.
[00:41:17] We can say, hey, this is gonna stem that, and also, we're gonna do something cool that, like, our media brain can pay attention to, which is bring back extinct species.
[00:41:26] Ben Lamm: I think we're bringing awareness to the bio I mean, I hope, maybe I'm wrong, but I hope we're bringing awareness to the biodiversity crisis that we're in.
[00:41:34] I hope that's... I hope we're doing a good job and good steward of that message, and I hope we're bringing attention to the great, you know, women and men that are solving real problems in conservation. But I do think that, you know, if we can use the extinction, the extinction of a couple of these, uh, species to develop tech, that conservationists don't have the money to go, or expertise, to go develop.
[00:41:57] I think that's huge. I think that's a win for humanity, not just a win for Colossal. Yeah, I mean, I
[00:42:02] Jordan Harbinger: think anybody listening probably would agree with that. What ethical considerations are there? Is it, I mean, it's exciting to de extinctify a species, but I'm sure there's somewhere some responsible scientist is like, well, you haven't, someone's Jeff Goldblum ing this whole thing, right?
[00:42:19] And what is, what is that criticism or what is that concern? So we have an
[00:42:23] Ben Lamm: incredible team of scientific executive and conservation advisors that help us. One of our, uh, bioethicists is Alta Charo. She's incredible to the point, um, about running towards your critics. Pre launch, I was like, who should we have from bioethics perspective?
[00:42:40] And I actually saw an interview where she debated George Church on why you should never bring back a man. But so I was like, she's the one because she's probably thought through this pretty well. So we got Alta, we spent a lot of time with her. I think she realized that someone's going to do this and we were trying to do this.
[00:42:55] The Most transparent at the way possible gave us a lot of feedback, help us build an ethical framework of how we think about these projects. And what's interesting is within a month before launch, I was talking to her. She's like, you know, thought about doing a genetically modified tomato first. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, the trains left the station like.
[00:43:16] We've been out raising money, hiring people. We can't, like, my bio doesn't make, what? And so I like, I had this like panic moment of like, Please tell me. Remember
[00:43:24] Jordan Harbinger: when you gave us 200 million dollars for the mammoth? Hear me out here, tomato instead. No thanks.
[00:43:30] Ben Lamm: Yeah, here's our ADA and routing number.
[00:43:36] And so what's interesting though, so we joked when we, we talked through that, but you know, we spent a lot of time thinking about that. We have a whole animal husbandry group, an animal welfare group, a conservation group. You know, as I mentioned earlier, we have this entire group of people in parts of the business that, you know, I honestly didn't think when we were starting the business, I guess I knew people would be excited.
[00:43:59] I knew we needed to take care of the animals and, and have an animal husbandry and welfare group, but just thinking through. All of the touch points that go into the project outside the science is something that, you know, we have had great guidance from Alta and others on, but those ethical considerations of what animal should you bring back?
[00:44:19] Why should you bring back? How do you pair it? We've got some ideas around not just the conservation side, but how we pair de extinction events with conservation events in interesting ways and show that the technology that we developed for Species X. is directly applicable to a sister or cousin species, right?
[00:44:37] So we're working on some interesting models with governments around that, that we think, you know, could be, you know, helpful. It's not really positioning, but it's really helpful in educating, you know, the public, because fundamentally, it's not really our job to persuade anyone. It's our job to educate people what we're doing, and then try to listen and do better, right?
[00:44:56] And so if we can... find opportunities to educate the conservation community, the general public governments on loss of biodiversity and how the pursuit of de extinction can, these technologies can directly go into their conservation pipelines. Then I think that solves a lot of the ethical challenges
[00:45:16] Jordan Harbinger: around this.
[00:45:17] It's a heavy lift. You've got to have government cooperation too. Otherwise, right. You could put mammals in Siberia and then they get poached or like some billionaire goes and kills one and takes a selfie. Or people start eating it or whatever, selling them to people to kill
[00:45:32] Ben Lamm: because they're just out there.
[00:45:33] Jimmy John's founder is not an investor in Colossal. Was
[00:45:35] Jordan Harbinger: that the guy that went and killed a lion and just got absolutely
[00:45:38] Ben Lamm: skewered for it? Yeah, or multiple things, like while eating one of his
[00:45:42] Jordan Harbinger: sandwiches or something. There was a dentist that went and killed that lion, that endangered one, or the one they lured out of the preserve.
[00:45:48] That guy's, I mean, that guy just, I think he had to retire because people were just like, this guy is dead meat. I mean, he never
[00:45:55] Ben Lamm: recovered from that. I'm not a hunter. Not probably out of any philosophy, I just, I just never, never my thing. Busy? Uh, yeah, it's just like, it's not, I don't really have hobbies. So it's definitely not one of the ones I don't have.
[00:46:07] Um, but I, I do understand that there are pockets of like overpopulation in certain species. Yeah. That hunting makes sense. So I'm not, I am not against philosophically hunting. We eat a lot. I'm not, I'm also not a vegan. So I do eat animals, meat, animal products. And so I know those come from somewhere. I'm not like, Oh, these were just magically made in the lab.
[00:46:28] So what I will say is, is that, you know, I do think to your point, we have to be very mindful about the animals because for us, you know, we spend all this money and time effort on bringing back these species and then some random person shoots it. That's just awful. Yeah, we're trying to get ahead of that.
[00:46:45] We've already been working on facilities, you know, there's some great technology companies out there that we aren't currently working with. But you know, my last company's in defense, so I know a lot of the big defense technology companies and some of the newer ones. We'd love to collaborate with those guys on tech to protect the animals.
[00:47:02] Uh, in sanctuaries and whatnot. So we're, we're, we're in the early stages of that, but we're at least thinking, kind of, we're at least conceptualizing ideas. If you can
[00:47:10] Jordan Harbinger: add cold resistance to an elephant, which is, I know, sort of the first principles basic thing here. Is there a future in which you can add radiation resistance to humans for, I mean, not that exact thing, but modify other...
[00:47:22] Ben Lamm: So at our core... Right. Colossal is starting to understand genotype to phenotype, like gene to physical expression. Like we're trying, we are understanding that and building core technologies around that to make editing easier and whatnot. Like one of the big areas of our focus is called multiplexing.
[00:47:40] There's people talking about CRISPR and other things, but there's one that's where you, you know, not do a single knockout or make a single nucleotide, like one little edit. One of the big areas we focus on is multi gene edits. Like a lot of disease states, uh, aren't a single, you know, like single cells, like a single gene mutation.
[00:47:56] Uh, but a lot of disease states require gene edits on multiple genes at the same time. And building technologies that allows us to be very efficient without causing all these unintended consequences or off target, also known as off target effects, in the genome where, like, kind of fucks up something you weren't planning on is kind of core to the technologies that we are developing.
[00:48:16] And I think that the combination of those will allow for understanding, you know, ultimate trait response or engineering through kind of that computational analysis and editing abilities. And so to your point, you know, Chris Mason, if you, by the way, I don't know if you ever get plugs, but Chris Mason is another person you should talk to.
[00:48:35] I think he's super crazy and interesting like George and Chris, he has a book that's, uh, called like the 500 year person or humans in 500 years or something like that. And one of his big things is radiation tolerance. It works really closely with space X and NASA and whatnot. So he's on our scientific advisory work.
[00:48:52] He's amazing. And, uh, awesome, crazy, he's crazy smart from New York, just great guy, has a mason lab at at Cornell. And that's one of the big things that Chris is interested in. So, you know, we've actually worked on a paper, uh, together with George and a few others on radiation tolerance in, in humans and whatnot.
[00:49:09] So we at Colossal aren't focusing on that, but I do believe there's a, a world, you know, at some point in, in the future where we're seeing you know, gene editing or gene manipulation, even on a complex, multiplex edited basis that has incredibly possible effects on humans. So I'll give you a real world example today.
[00:49:30] We did not develop this, but you know, uh, you've probably heard of statins and like all these drugs that like cholesterol stuff, your cholesterol. Yeah. Yeah. statins. I have a million reasons why I don't take Xanadu, that's a podcast in itself, but I have genetically high cholesterol. Well, I, I take a PKS9 inhibitor, which basically blocks the way a certain gene, uh, responds.
[00:49:52] It's two shots a month and lowers my cholesterol by 60%. Wow. That's incredible. That is. And that was a study that was actually ironically done by Helen Hobbs, another one of our, our advisors, uh, here in, in Texas. And, uh, and they found that, I mean, it's a game changer for people that have high cholesterol, whether that's through lifestyle or, or, or genetics, especially it's through genetics, which was in my case, and it was a game teacher, like in within, you know, five days of taking my first shot.
[00:50:20] I was like, wait, I've never seen numbers like that. That's truly, truly remarkable. And so, and, and that's just us, you know, blocking it. So think about the point when we can just edit that gene and everyone in the population doesn't have that. So, you know, we are doing human genome engineering, but the technologies are here and now we need to wrap the, we need to make those technologies better and we need to wrap the right regulation and ethics around them.
[00:50:45] But I do see a world where. A lot of disease states can be eradicated.
[00:50:52] Jordan Harbinger: This is the Jordan Harbinger show with our guest, Ben lamb. We'll be right back. This episode is sponsored in part by Shopify, Steve jobs and Steve Wozniak in tech jobs provided the vision and Wozniak the expertise and together they transformed Apple from a garage startup into a global Titan.
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[00:54:17] All the deals, discounts, and ways to support the show are over at jordanharbinger. com slash deals. You can also search for any sponsor using the AI chat bot on the website as well. Thank you for supporting those who support the show. Now for the rest of my conversation with Ben Lam. I love that stuff. I mean, radiation resistance in humans for space travel reasons or for living on another planet or something like that, if we need it with less atmosphere, or even something more closer to home, like helping animals who are, their natural environment is mostly gone.
[00:54:48] So you make it so that they can digest different foods or live in a colder or warmer climate.
[00:54:52] Ben Lamm: By tweaking something. Yeah, like drought resistant cattle and things like that. That's, I think that's the world that we are in. And I think these tools kind of give us some level of dominion, not really over biology, but with biology.
[00:55:06] Like, you know, we as humans can work with biological systems and help engineer a path where there's a better coexistence.
[00:55:14] Jordan Harbinger: I'm embarrassed that I'm asking you this, and I don't want to waste your time if this is way out there, but is the dinosaur thing possible? Why or why not? Because people are gonna be like, to ask them about T Rex, so ask, what's, ask them about Velociraptors.
[00:55:27] And I'm gonna, so here it
[00:55:28] Ben Lamm: is. Believe it or not, we do get this question also. I'm sure you do. Around dinosaurs. So, I don't want to break hearts, but there is no True Dino DNA, one of our other advisors, Kenneth Blackavarro, by the way, these are all really interesting women and men. So if you ever are like, Oh my gosh, I like, I'm bored and Jordan needs something new.
[00:55:48] If you ever ping me, I'll introduce you to these people because they're amazing. I will. But Kenneth Blackavarro is arguably one One of the coolest, he is definitely the coolest paleontologist on the planet, and he's one of the most famous. And one of his big claims of fame is of the dinosaurs that have been discovered, the top four biggest, including Dreadnoughtus, which is the largest dinosaur ever discovered, was discovered by, by Kenneth.
[00:56:09] And he's awesome. He's just incredible. And, um, he has actually developed a way to demineralize dinosaur bones or fragments of dinosaur bones so that he could identify the amino acids. That's really helpful from paleontology perspective, because you could be in the field and you can be like, this looks like a triceratops bone, but there are no.
[00:56:28] triceratops bone. If you do this process, you could say, Oh, maybe this has the markers of a triceratops. But those are amino acids, like individual pieces of the genomes. They're not big fragments or even small fragments or genes. So there is amino acids. Uh, there's probably a gene or two out there that has been, uh, found and, uh, discovered.
[00:56:49] But fundamentally, you know, there's not big strands of, of dinosaur DNA. So I do think it's highly unlikely someone could de extinct a dinosaur because there's just no DNA. It
[00:57:01] Jordan Harbinger: would have to be when we can construct DNA almost out of, like, whole cloth and then you make something that looks like what we think it probably looked
[00:57:07] Ben Lamm: like, but isn't that Humankind probably at some point could engineer through DNA synthesis.
[00:57:12] And doing like ancestral state reconstructions using AI and, you know, much harder systems and LLMs. So, so, uh, but yeah, I, I don't believe it's possible and I don't, I personally do not see a path. to really, you know, de extincting a, a, a dinosaur. Even the way that Colossal defines de extinction.
[00:57:34] Jordan Harbinger: Even that's also just like, we would literally just make a Jurassic Park zoo out of it, which is a little bit like, do we really need that?
[00:57:40] Do we need that? I don't know if we need that. Yeah. It seems a little bit cruel to make something and it's like, this is here for you to gawk at and then for us to treat it kind of shitty. Yeah. Yeah, I don't think we need that. Yeah. What other animals are on the roadmap? Even if the roadmap is like a list in your
[00:57:54] Ben Lamm: head.
[00:57:55] So, you know, we're very focused on the mammoth thylacine and dodo. We get a lot of, you know, kind of like dinosaurs. We get a lot of requests and there's a part of me that's like, well, shouldn't we just finish these? Um, we get a lot of requests for new species. Um, we are funding some academic labs on other species.
[00:58:12] We are thinking about it. One species that we are not working on. We're But I'm very excited about which I'd love to make is the stellar sea cow. What is that? Yeah, it's awesome. It's like a whale sized, um, manatee. So think of like a giant manatee in the Pacific Northwest, all over Alaska, all over, um, all the way from Oregon up through Washington.
[00:58:31] And it was, you know, hunted to extinction. And it was vital. It really helped, uh, promote and circulate the kelp forest of the Pacific Northwest. The kelp forest, kelp, another, another thing that's great for carbon and carbon sequestration, you know, the stellar sea cow was instrumental in making that ecosystem even healthier, significantly healthier than it is today.
[00:58:54] But what's hard about the stellar sea cow, We actually have genomes, we actually have DNA, but there's nothing to gestate with it. So, you can't gestate a whale sized manatee in a manatee, right? Or in a dugong, or something else. So, you have to be really mindful about, you know, like for us, the whole system has to work.
[00:59:14] I do think that, um, that would be a great species. Yeah. If we get actually to develop, well, I, I will make the commitment that if we get artificial wombs to work, and work at like, whale sized, We'll totally do that one because that would be amazing. That is really interesting. It'd be awesome. It'd be great if we get success in creating these like primordial germ cells, which are pretty, which are, it's a little bit different with avian genomics versus the system that we built for mammalian work.
[00:59:39] If we get that right, I think there's a lot of bird species like the Moa and others that could be really, really cool. But I think that we and like Mike McGrew are, he's one of our advisors are probably the now the furthest when it comes to genetic engineering and birds from what we've already built in this year, which is amazing.
[00:59:58] Uh, but I think that we could get to the point that we could do some pretty cool birds. Those would be on my list. Like, I, I think the Moa is awesome. And I think that, I mean, there's a lot of great extinct species, but what is the Moa?
[01:00:10] Jordan Harbinger: I don't even know what that is. So the
[01:00:11] Ben Lamm: Moa was like, think of it like a giant emu or, um, ostrich in New Zealand.
[01:00:18] It was like, it was like its big iconic extinct species is the Moa. It's super, super cool. Oh, I just Googled it.
[01:00:25] Jordan Harbinger: It's enormous.
[01:00:27] Ben Lamm: It's enormous. It's bigger than a person. Yeah, it's like, it's like 12, 14 feet, something like that. Oh my God. It's even weirder. It was the prey of the host eagle. So think about that.
[01:00:38] There's a bigger giant eagle that's extinct. And, um, that is basically a pterodactyl. God, that's terrifying. That is terrifying. That's scary.
[01:00:49] Jordan Harbinger: Do not bring that one back. That, if that eats a bird that's bigger than a human, we, that would just fly around big events and pick people off.
[01:00:56] Ben Lamm: It'd be terrifying.
[01:00:56] Yeah. Wow. It'd be like the Jurassic world scene. There's a lot, there's a lot of stuff that's like. Maybe that's good. That's yeah, maybe that one
[01:01:05] Jordan Harbinger: was that extinct because is that like a dinosaur era thing or was that hunted to extinction because
[01:01:09] Ben Lamm: I'm imagining that's in the last couple hundred years. It's primary food source was Moa.
[01:01:14] Which partially was hunted. And the other thing was the introduction of invasive species. What a lot of people don't realize is that like a lot of people say like, Oh, the Dodo was just killed because it was stupid or, and people were hungry, which isn't necessarily the case. They laid one at a year and they were.
[01:01:29] a flightless bird, meaning that that egg was on the ground. So, you know, if you introduce rats and, and wild pigs and other things to wild dogs and they eat those eggs, there's no more, right? This kind of talks kind of like the, the elephant example. I was going to
[01:01:44] Jordan Harbinger: ask about invasive species because I mean, I, I don't see how you could really do this accidentally, but you'd have to be really careful.
[01:01:51] I mean, you hear about how like, A certain kind of muscle or a bug cost the economy billions of dollars in some areas because they Yeah impossible to get rid of the pigs on the islands are Tearing up all the vegetation and killing all the dodos and the rats are eating the bird eggs and the bugs are eating all the trees You can't unring
[01:02:07] Ben Lamm: that bell.
[01:02:08] It's hard to unring but you can do it very thoughtfully So like this whole concept, uh, you know, we we we aren't working on this, but there are folks that are Looking at this, you know, uh, we don't, there's, I don't know if there's that many cat hate groups here in the United States, but in Australia they are, because cats, which were introduced for captivity purposes, have gone crazy in Australia, and there's just a ton of them, and they are eviscerating All of the small marsupial populations, which are only, you know, and to make their, they're, they only exist in Australia.
[01:02:43] And so there's been talks, you know, we aren't doing this, but we've had conversations with different groups and governments around this is that, that you can introduce this concept, which I'm actually very pro, which is called the gene drive. So it doesn't go out and kill the cat, but it makes it where if this cat, you know, eats a certain food or whatever the.
[01:03:03] necessary delivery mechanism. They're doing this also with invasive carp species, this fish species in Australia, where if the cat eats this, it basically makes it become reproductively unviable. So that cat gets to live out its natural life and, you know, be a stray cat and kill marsupials and do all the stuff it does, but it can't mate.
[01:03:23] And so several generations from now, you get to the point that that isolated population of cat doesn't exist, right? And so this whole concept of gene drives is very, very interesting to remove invasive species. And I'll give you one other example that is being worked on. We're pseudo collaborating on it.
[01:03:42] It's not It's not a focus of us. We're just helping the lab a little bit. But, um, there's this incredible, uh, animal that's beautiful called the quoll in Australia. It's awesome. It looks kind of like a mongoose. It's a spotted quoll. You should look at it. It's beautiful, but it's endangered and moving towards endangered, critically endangered because guess what?
[01:04:01] It loves to eat toads and settlers out of Australia. Introduce these animals called cane toads. So if you have a picture of the call on one side you put a picture of the canes on the other side canes are just fucking disgusting. They're just gross and they eat them. But because of the neural toxin, the cane toad, it kills the calls.
[01:04:21] And by the way, it kills other marsupials that eat it as well. I will probably get this wrong. It's either one or two gene edits that make the call. resistant to the cane toads. So now you don't have to go kill all the cane toads. You could make minor modifications to populations of quolls, and they could, they already love to eat the cane toads, it just kills them.
[01:04:40] Uh, and they could eradicate the cane toads. And so that's the power of gene drives. And so I do think that we can be very smart and let nature, if we give nature a little bit of boost, we can let nature Help fix the problems that we created themselves. You know, we could empower the Qualls to kill all the Ganktons.
[01:05:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you're kind of speeding up natural selection by a few,
[01:05:04] Ben Lamm: I don't know. It's a
[01:05:05] Jordan Harbinger: directed evolution. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of years by, by making sure that it doesn't die, but ends up sort of turning the, stemming the tide of battle or whatever. It's so interesting. Thylacine is what? A big cat?
[01:05:17] Tasmanian tiger? Dodo bird? So
[01:05:19] Ben Lamm: the thylacine is a, uh, it's called the Tasmanian tiger, but it's actually a big carnivorous marsupial. So it has a pouch and everything. So most people think it's either a, based on the name, they think it's a cat or they see it and they think it, because of convergent evolution, it's not related at all to dogs or canids, but it looks very similar.
[01:05:39] Like the, the. the morphology of the shape of the skull. If you have a wolf skull and a thylacine skull, they look almost identical, even though they're not related just due to this concept of convergent evolution. They both evolved independently that are very, very similar.
[01:05:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I looked at it and I was like, Oh, it's like some kind of, I don't even know.
[01:05:57] Cause I'm no animal expert. I was like, it's either a hyena or a big cat or something. I can't really tell. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Wolfy thing. Yeah. That's so, it's so incredible that this stuff. is even possible. When I saw Jurassic Park, I was like, well, this is obviously fake and never going to happen. And I mean, look, dinosaurs still not going to happen, but it's really little did I think like, Oh, we're going to use some version of this technology to do something in my lifetime.
[01:06:19] That part had not
[01:06:21] Ben Lamm: ever occurred to me. Yeah. I mean, I was inspired by it. It made me excited about genetics, but you know, it was. Until George spent 30 seconds at the end of a call. Just kind of hit me at the right time. It sounds
[01:06:32] Jordan Harbinger: like you've got a, uh, a mammoth task ahead of you, man. And, um, I've been holding on to that one since I started prepping the show.
[01:06:39] Yeah, it's a big hairy goal.
[01:06:40] Ben Lamm: So, we'll
[01:06:41] Jordan Harbinger: get there. And I wish you all the best. I would love to come and see what you're doing at some point, if that's even allowed. I don't know what you
[01:06:46] Ben Lamm: got over there. Absolutely. It's, I mean, I'm always happy to talk about it because I'm excited about it. talking to our scientists is way better.
[01:06:53] Coming to the lab is even a billion times better than we're talking to me, but talking to the incredible women and men that are doing the work, it's just awesome. So you're welcome anytime. Like it's, you get, it's, it's amazing. Like you would, you would have the most fun, like ask for us. Forrest comes and he's like, how do I get, every time Forrest is here, I get texts like a day later.
[01:07:12] It's like, how do I get more involved? How do I get more involved? It's
[01:07:15] Jordan Harbinger: really amazing. And I'm, I'm looking forward to that news release where it's just you with a baby mammoth. I mean, that's going to be, you must just be dreaming about that moment every night when
[01:07:24] Ben Lamm: you're actually able to sleep. I do. I I'm, I'm very excited about, you know, we've made a bunch of big promises.
[01:07:31] And it's our job to deliver on those promises. And yeah, I'm excited about that because I think it's not, I think that's a, you know, it's delivery on George. I always like to say I'm kind of a steward of George's vision. So I love to deliver that for George and for the world. So I'm, I'm pretty stoked. Ben Lamb,
[01:07:48] Jordan Harbinger: thank you very much, man.
[01:07:49] Ben Lamm: Yeah, thanks so much for having me.
[01:07:52] Jordan Harbinger: Here is a trailer for our episode with Rob Reed, also on synthetic biology, but a little bit more dark than this one. The
[01:08:00] Rob Reid: terrifying thing is COVID is pretty damn benign compared to what could have easily happened this time around or what could very easily happen next time around, particularly if the next bug is maliciously designed.
[01:08:16] Society produces a certain small but terrifying of people every year who for whatever reason go to such a dark place that they become suicidal mass murderers and their death toll is limited only by the weapons that they have. Technology is the force multiplier. The 1918 flu virus, which killed at a much, much, much greater scale than COVID and the smallpox genome.
[01:08:41] Both of those are online and anybody could find them within a short number of minutes. The time would soon come where somebody could take that and re animate And something which scares the bejesus out of me, which is an influenza virus, not a coronavirus, is H5N1 flu that kills 50 to 60 percent of the people that it infects.
[01:09:03] Two independent research groups, one in Holland and one in Wisconsin, took it upon themselves and they basically made it capable of aerosolized transmission through the breath. No lab is secure enough to keep this stuff from running out. And this is a pathogen that could quite literally topple.
[01:09:21] civilization if it's contagious enough. If the lights shut off on a country wide basis after a shockingly small number of days, civilization starts to teeter and eventually topple.
[01:09:35] Jordan Harbinger: That was episode 244, Rob Reed, Synthetic Biology for Medicine and for Murder. This is one of those episodes where the guest is doing something so epic it makes me kind of feel like, Well, what am I doing with my life?
[01:09:48] I'm just talking into a dang microphone with no pants on. This is really incredible stuff. I can't wait to pet a baby mammoth, uh, if I ever get the chance. By the way, this also makes economic sense. I know a lot of people are like, Wait a minute, they're gonna make one of these things, find out it costs ten million dollars, it's gonna be a novelty, they'll shut it down.
[01:10:04] As we mentioned on the show, You can always speak the language of money. And I looked this up, the stats vary depending on where you get it, but the global economy takes more than a 5 trillion hit annually from the ecosystem functionality decline. So that's the loss of natural services, and that's probably like all natural resources, so.
[01:10:22] Take it with whatever grains of salt required, but it's an astounding 44 trillion, more than half the global GDP relies on nature, including food, materials, fuel, according to UNPRI, so the economic impact of the loss of species and lack of diversity, this can be framed as a business problem, which is frankly what we probably need in order to get a solution that people actually care about.
[01:10:46] We really do need to speak economic sense here. And I'm hoping Ben's work over a colossal really is on the forefront of all that. All things, Ben lamb will be in the show notes at Jordan harbinger. com or ask the AI chat bot also on the website transcripts in the show notes, of course, advertisers, discount codes, deals, ways to support the show all at Jordan harbinger.
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[01:11:32] Don't forget about six minute networking over at Jordan harbinger. com slash course. And if you want to reach me, I'm at Jordan Harbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. You can also hit me on LinkedIn. This show is created in association with podcast one. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jace Sanderson, Robert Fogerty, Milio Campo, Ian Baird, and Gabriel Mizrahi.
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[01:12:05] Definitely share this episode with them. In the meantime, I hope you apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you learn. And we'll see you next time. Again, special thanks to Nissan for sponsoring this episode of the Jordan Harbinger Show. Family
[01:12:20] Ben Lamm: patriarch and disbarred prosecutor Elick Murdoch was convicted of the brutal murders of his wife Maggie and his son Paul in March of 2023.
[01:12:30] My name is Manny Matney and I have been investigating the Murdoch family since 2019. The justice system can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be because we all want to drink from the same cup of justice. And it starts with learning about our legal system. Catch our new show, Cup of Justice, with tales from the newsroom and the courtroom.
[01:12:52] Liz Farrell, Eric Bland, and I invite you to get an entertaining understanding of this case and others. You will love Cup of Justice shows on the new feed. Together, our hosts create the perfect trifecta of legal experience, journalistic integrity, and a fire lit to expose the truth wherever it leads.
[01:13:12] Search for Cup of Justice wherever you get your podcasts or visit cupofjusticepod. com.
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