Nature has always been inspiring and it is nature which cultivated an unabated and constant curiosity during my childhood on my grandfather's family farm in Europe.
Dr Bianca Piscioneri
Nature has always been inspiring and it is nature which cultivated an unabated and constant curiosity during my childhood on my grandfather's family farm in Europe. All the delights of different seasons: cold, snowy winters; golden autumn and harvests; spring green freshness; the hot summer sun which can burn and destroy crops and yet delight the people with its warmth; and the seemingly never ending summer rituals, festivals and weddings.
Science and nature mingled interchangeably for me in my surroundings of corn, wheat and sunflower fields. The flowers, plants, herbs, vineyards and wild flower and grass meadows were ever-present. My first scientific field experiment was to a nearby creek to collect the micro-organisms and algae since I was fascinated with just how many varieties of plant life lives in one drop of water.
Bracing the cold to study the new fallen snowflakes with my magnifying glass before their fleeting beauty melted and watching the elegant snowdrop flowers power through the snow in the neatly laid out beds of English box hedges was playful science. These garden beds were constantly filled with flowers, roses and rare bulbs throughout the warmer months with the perfume of the air changing almost every day to delight the senses.
I listened to and watched as my grandfather pored over everything he could read about the new hybrid of corn, weighing up whether to plant it against the 300 years of ancestral knowledge and experience he had and what future impact on his fields and environment his decision could have.
There was a monastery with gold decorations which glistened in streams of sunlight through the narrow glass windows and flickering candle light, the air filled with frankincense and perfumes of young women. The monastery was at least a thousand years old with a natural spring which I'm sure has been there since Roman times. The latest excavations attest to baths, palaces and many different soldiers from all corners of the Roman Empire using the spring due to the importance of their spa-like culture in the first century AD where the mind and body could rejuvenate. I remember the fresh sweetness of this spring water, which was said to be blessed and infused with health giving minerals, on hot summer days and thinking about how a Roman could have drunk this water from the same spring thousands of years ago.
We seem to take water for granted on our planet Earth and yet we are made of it. The molecule of water seems simple, but it can become steam or form into at least seventeen known types of ice. This molecule, it seems, is a rare commodity in the universe that we know of so far and its science is an inspiration for ELEMENTET.
However, it was the rare variety of apple tree planted on the farm over 70 years before my birth that truly inspired the doctor in me. The apple is a very scientifically clever species. On the surface, it looks like humans had conquered the apple with so much of it grown all over the world. But in fact, it's the apple that it made itself connect with humans and in turn propagate itself.
With a complex botanical and chemical composition, it is a little known fact that you can never grow the same apple from the seeds of the one you planted. These seeds will always produce a completely different variety of apple, sometimes in stark contrast to the one you thought you planted.
The apple of my childhood was a large apple, rosy and sun-kissed on one side, with a perfect balance between sweet and tart in flavour. No one else I knew had such an apple tree and it was no surprise, therefore, that these apples were so revered in our area. This dual effect apple was excellent for eating fresh and also making pastries which require a serious dedication to precision. The person who planted this apple tree never got to sit in its shade and dappled sunlight like I did. I regularly visited his grave as part of cultural rituals.
This person was my great grandfather who died of tuberculosis after spending time in sanitariums 'taking the waters', looking for the coveted fresh mountain air and rejuvenation, desperate for a cure.
Tuberculosis is a respiratory disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It was an epidemic which mostly claimed the young and was known as a 'robber of youth'. The purported rate of cure was only 10%. Through epigenetics we can explain just how the tuberculosis bacillus weakens the immune system by turning ‘off’ a specific gene. Although treatable, tuberculosis still exists today and has yet to be completely eradicated.
In the middle of another world pandemic involving a respiratory disease causing microorganism, I am simply grateful to my great grandfather who planted the apple tree, never knowing that I would exist nor just how much joy his tree would bring to me and to all the children in our neighbourhood across the generations.
With this rich heritage in the luxury universe of ELEMENTET, health is not just the mere absence of disease. It is about the Joie de Vivre, the very essence of well-being and a life lived well where the rare and the beautiful excite the senses. This beauty effortlessly mingles with the science of nature, pushing the frontiers of innovation in multitude of fields, including the fast-paced field of biomolecular science.