TODAY SHOW TRANSCRIPT
Natalie Morales [voiceover]: What if someone told you that dating was a thing of the past? That finding your soulmate was just a simple mouth swab away? It might sound too good to be true, but in San Diego, California, a burgeoning biotech company claims it can do just that.
Through a series of personality tests, brain scans, and yes, DNA analysis, GeneticAlly can identify your biological soulmate.
Using a patented algorithm called DNADuo, your DNA will be compared to hundreds of thousands of other individuals in GeneticAlly’s database. Their proprietary software then places your compatibility scores, from zero to one hundred, in a range of categories: Base Match. Silver. Gold. Platinum. Titanium. Three out of four Titanium Matches end up in committed relationships. So, what about the couples who score over that coveted ninety? Only four Diamond Matches have been found to date, and in a startling twist, one of them is a member of the GeneticAlly team. Specifically, the DNADuo inventor and lead scientist, Dr. River Peña. Peña, a thirty-five-year-old geneticist, started his research in the labs of the Salk Institute.
River Peña: I wanted to see if I could find a common genetic factor in couples who described themselves as being in loving, long-term relationships for over two decades.
Natalie: How many couples did you study in that first test?
River: Three hundred.
Natalie: And what did you find?
River: In all of the couples who reported long-term relationship satisfaction, I found a compatibility pattern across two hundred genes.
Natalie voiceover: But Dr. Peña and his team didn’t stop there. A study of one thousand test subjects grew to over one hundred thousand, and the initial pattern of two hundred genes is now a patented assay of over thirty-five hundred.
Natalie: So, humans have twenty thousand genes.
River: Between twenty and twenty-five thousand, yes.
Natalie: And your company has now found correlations between thirty-five hundred of those that lead to compatibility? That seems like a lot.
River: It is. But think about it: Everything we become is encoded by our genes. The way we react to stimulus, the way we learn and grow. Thirty-five hundred is likely just the start.
Natalie voiceover: GeneticAlly has plans to go public in May and hopes to have their DNADuo kits in retail and online stores by summer. With online dating revenue this year topping nine hundred million dollars in the U.S. alone, investors are lining up.
River: Compatibility isn’t limited to just romantic relationships. Imagine finding the caretaker who’s most compatible with your children, or a doctor for your parents, the right management team to lead your business.
Natalie voiceover: The sky’s the limit. But back to that Diamond DNADuo score. In January, Jessica Davis, a thirty-year-old statistician, took the DNADuo test kit on a whim.
Jessica: I’d completely forgotten about it until I got the message from GeneticAlly asking me to come in.
Natalie voiceover: Jessica was Client 144326. Her match? Client 000001, Dr. River Peña.
Natalie: What was the highest match you’d found up to that point?
Natalie: And what was your and Jessica’s score?
Natalie voiceover: A ninety-eight. That means that of the thirty-five hundred gene pairs that score compatibility, ninety-eight percent of them were found to be ideally compatible.
Natalie: River, as the lead scientist, what was your initial reaction?
River: Disbelief. We did a blood test to confirm.
Natalie: So, biologically, the two of you are compatible in almost every way? What’s that like?
Jessica: It’s … hard to describe.
Natalie: Is there attraction?
River: [laughs] There’s definitely attraction.
Natalie voiceover: Attraction may be putting it mildly. Off-camera, crew members commented that it felt like there was something palpable between the pair.
Natalie: So, what comes next for you two? Are you dating?
Jessica: Let’s just say … we’re enjoying getting to know each other.
River: [laughs] What she said.
/Cut to hosts/
Savannah Guthrie: Is it hot in here or is it just me?
Natalie: I was just going to say! I’m sweating.
Savannah: GeneticAlly is set to launch widely in May. I have to admit, I think this could change the entire face of the e-dating industry.
Natalie: Without a doubt.
THE DAY HAD been so chaotic that it didn’t occur to Jess to be anxious about dinner with River’s sisters until the two of them were literally walking into the restaurant. But just outside the arched glass doors, her feet became glued to the pavement and she took a few steps away, pressing herself to the side of the building.
“Oh, shit.” Leaning back, Jess stared up at the sky, incandescent blue in twilight. Today had been fine—better than fine, it went perfectly—so why was she freaking out?
River kept walking, looking back only when he noticed she was no longer next to him. He returned to her. “Everything okay?”
“I’m meeting your family.”
He smiled patiently and tucked a hand into the pocket of his perfectly tailored pants. Perfect pants, perfect shirt, perfect face. Perfectly at ease waiting for her panic to subside.
People passed on the sidewalk, and cars inched along Fifth, turning down G Street. “I’ve never done this before,” Jess confessed. A hot flush crawled up her neck. “Like, met someone’s family. Alec and I were together while we were both at school, and his family was from Florida. I never met them.”
River’s eyes searched her face, lashes brushing his cheeks with every amused blink. Finally, he crowded into her space, hands on her waist. “I promise this will be much more painful for me than for you.”
“It’s easy to say that now, when your awkward years are behind you.” She pointed to her forehead. “Don’t you see my stress pimple?”
“Nope, sorry, I only see pretty.” He leaned in, settled his mouth on hers for a sweet kiss. “You three are going to have fun at my expense, and then we’ll go back to my place and maybe actually make it to my bed this time.”
“Sir, are you bribing me with mind-bending sex?”
He laughed, his gaze glimmering in the dim light. The longer she stared, the more reassured she was. He communicated so much with those eyes. Reassurance, sure, but also attraction, mirth, and something else—something that looked a lot like adoration.
“I like you a lot, Jessica Marie,” he said quietly.
A fist wrapped around her heart. “I like you, too.”
“And if it makes you feel better,” he said, “I’ve never introduced a girlfriend to my family, either.” River reached down, threaded their fingers together, and led her inside.
The restaurant was wide open and glaringly loud, pop music pumping out of speakers and the sounds of laughter and conversation throbbing from the walls. With high ceilings and a bar in the center of the room, the decor was eclectic and trendy. Couches and armchairs formed a funky mix of seating configurations, and lights fashioned from glass globes, vases, and mason jars swung from the ceiling by thick, bristly rope. A waifish hostess led them across planked wooden floors to a table situated beneath a giant metal print emblazoned EAT.