OPW INTERVIEW -- Aug 16 -- Get a DNA test and find your match and it could result in more orgasms and less cheating, apparently. ScientificMatch.com charges $1k and will send daters a DNA test. I interviewed the CEO to find out how it all works. – Mark Brooks
What is the founding story of Scientific Match?
Five yeas ago I came across a study known as the sweaty t-shirt experiment. There was a documentary on TV and I just happened to be watching late night educational television and they described the sweaty t-shirt experiment. The experiment took place over on a college campus in Europe. A bunch of male students wore t-shirts for a couple of nights in a row exclusive of any external fragrances or any soaps or deodorants that would add to their natural odor. Then they had female students sniff the t-shirts that were worn by the men. And some of the t-shirts were rated as smelling very sexy and very desirable and some of the t-shirts were rated as smelling very unattractive or like dirty old gym socks.
It turned out that the determining factor between the two extremes were the commonality of the immune system genes between the t-shirt wearer and the t-shirt sniffer. When the t-shirt wearer and sniffer had very different immune system genes from each other the t-shirts were rated as smelling very attractive or very sexy even. And when the t-shirt wearer and sniffer had very similar immune system genes, like for example, a brother and sister, then the t-shirt was rated as smelling very unattractive.
I immediately thought that it sounded like a great idea on which to base a dating service. I spent the subsequent five years doing research and development to learn if this is really a valid idea or not. And the more research I did, the more I realized that there are even more benefits then just the fact that you would like the smell of your spouse’s dirty laundry.
So how does this site work?
When somebody signs up on ScientificMatch.com we send them out a DNA collection kit. That consists mostly of a cotton swab for the inside of your mouth and you send that along to our laboratory once you’ve rubbed the inside of your cheek. The lab analyzes some of your immune system genes. They upload the results onto the website and the website automatically matches people together that don’t share any common immune system genes with each other. That’s what the scientific literature has identified as the most compatible matches. It’s a pretty basic theory. Nature wants us to mate with those who have different immune system genes from our own because it creates the healthiest offspring.
Would that really give any indication of compatibility in character? Is there any research that has been done around the compatibility of two people based on this?
It doesn’t relate too much to personality matching. This is mostly a physical phenomenon. However, we list six benefits to this type of matching on our website. The most interesting one is that when two people are matched together in this fashion, the female of the pair in an exclusive relationship will cheat less on her spouse then if she wasn’t matched properly in this genetic manner. It was shown in a study out of the University of New Mexico that the woman’s proclivity to cheating on her spouse is almost directly proportional to how many immune system genes she shares with her spouse. So the proclivity to cheat on the woman’s behalf is the closest we can get to anything behavioral. The same phenomenon, by the way, has also been shown in several studies of animals that mate for life. If the “monogamous” pair share too many immune system genes, the female will stray from her partner to get impregnated by other, more compatible males. She’ll then return to her lifelong partner to give birth and raise the offspring together, with the male non-the-wiser that he’s not the actual father.
In terms of behavior if two people are a match on this level it sounds like there is going to be more of a sexual attraction, which is a pretty major contributor to a successful relationship.
That’s exactly right but its important to point out that that’s only one piece of the puzzle and we don’t proclaim to be matching anybody on any kind of an emotional or like you said a character level. It’s a chemical attraction, it’s a sexual attraction and one of the studies we cite actually does show that when couples are in a relationship that are matched very well according to this genetic process, they report having a higher level of sexual satisfaction. In fact, the females in the study reported having a higher rate of orgasm. So it definitely contributes to a greater degree of sexual satisfaction. And I agree that’s a very important component of a long term relationship.
But just because two people have chemistry together doesn’t mean that they’re going to be soul mates and it doesn’t mean that they’ll even like each other.
How does the ScientificMatch.com test compare with the likes of the tests that you can buy for $1,000 through 23andMe.com?
We don’t screen anybody out based on their propensity for certain diseases or any deficiencies in their genome. We look exclusively at three immune system genes. That gives us six genetic reference points because each gene is composed of two halves, one half comes from the mother and one half comes from the father. So we just make sure those six genetic reference points are completely different between one person and the other person that we’re matching them with.
How much is your test?
Right now through next Valentine’s Day we’re charging $995 and that’s about half of our normal price. Normally we charge $1,995 but that’s for a lifetime membership. Some people think that’s expensive based on online dating services but it’s also very inexpensive when you compare it to offline matchmakers.
What are your goals for the site for 2008 through the end of 2009?
We’re at the point right now where we’re really going to have to decide, do we want to license it out to existing matchmakers or do we want to grow the business ourselves? Our preference is to grow organically city by city. We’re also talking to matchmakers and we’re trying to gauge what their interests might be as well. We do want to be national within a year or two but whether that’s through licensing or doing it on our own, we’re still not sure.