In May, Sebastian Kraves, a molecular neurobiologist, was invited to give a TED Talk about the miniPCR DNA Discovery System that they developed. The article about this was published in the TED home page in September and features American Truffle Company’s Chief Scientist Dr. Paul Thomas’ work.
Figure 1-5. Dr. Paul Thomas holding the first UK-cultivated truffle. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Paul Thomas.)
The Truffle Farmer That Needed DNA Analysis
People often ask us where this revolution in accessibility might take us, or how the world will change. However, it is notoriously hard to predict how new technology will transform society. For example, when we first developed miniPCR, we could not have predicted that a truffle farmer would have a use for DNA analysis. Dr. Paul Thomas grows truffles for a living, and we see him pictured in Figure 1-5 holding the first UK-cultivated truffle. Truffles are a delicacy that stems from a fungus growing on the roots of living trees, and it’s a really rare fungus: some species may fetch between $3,000 to $7,000 per kilogram, or even more. We’ve learned from Thomas that the stakes for a truffle farmer can be really high: When he sources new truffles to grow on his plantations, Thomas is exposed to knock-offs that even to an expert’s eye can look and feel like the real thing. Even under a microscope, these lower quality truffle spores can look authentic. So in order to select the right truffles to grow on his farm, the ones that chefs all around the world will fight over, Thomas has to use DNA analysis. This is mind-blowing, and it’s hard now for us to look at a black truffle risotto without thinking of its genes.