Can you tell us the difference between the two companies you’ve developed—Entia Biosciences, Inc. and Total Nutraceutical Solutions, Inc.?
We were a product company developing different combinations from mushrooms. I was in the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby five years ago, and the horse that won was called Street Sense. I created the combination of mushrooms that he was on and became very well known. I was creating these products for horses, for dogs, and for humans. We had a company called Total Nutraceutical Solutions (TNS). We started realizing that we were really a biotech company, and that we should be using our technology to find out why these mushrooms are helping and what is going on between your genes and nutrition. So this year in January we changed the name to Entia Biosciences, and we moved TNS into a consumer product company, making it a subsidiary.
Give us a brief background on your career.
I received my MD from NYU School of Medicine, and was at one time a general surgeon in New York at Mt. Sinai Hospital. My career includes immunology research at the National Institutes of Health, Adult and Pediatric Urology at UCLA, and drug development for major pharmaceutical companies. I also went on to form some pharmaceutical companies on my own. I came out here in ’92, just to start getting out of LA. I wanted to retire and do some other things with my life, and I met my current wife and decided to stay here.
What makes you so passionate about mushrooms?
In 1995 my mother developed dementia, and since then I have devoted myself to the research and development of products to treat Alzheimer’s disease. While I was doing the research on Alzheimer’s, we came across a way of potentially preventing the buildup of the toxic protein, beta-amyloid, in the human brain and it involved oxidative stress and antioxidants. We were doing work at Harvard with Dr. Jack Rogers, and we uncovered a substance called L-Ergothioneine, which is a very potent electron donor. It’s found in mushrooms. I don’t know what your background is in terms of free radicals and oxidative stress, but that’s not a political party. Free radicals go around your body and they kill your cells. So I started working on it. I became more and more fascinated with it. I’ve been going back and looking at nature for some of the answers. I don’t think the pharmaceutical industry looks hard enough at nature.
You advocate the consumption of whole foods and total nutrition. Does that make you a little unpopular with the pharmaceutical companies?
I would assume that if you took it to its ultimate degree, they are not going to be happy because we’re trying to replace drugs with medical foods. We’re starting to show that nature has a lot of power, and people have moved away from the power of nature.
How did you end up finding out about these mushrooms?
At that time I didn’t know much about Ergothioneine, but I knew it was a very potent antioxidant, a potent electron donor, and that it could protect you. I started doing research in stem cells, in protecting cells against deterioration, and I showed that it worked. I saw that this could be an elixir of life. A woman named Joy Dubost called me from Penn State University saying that she had discovered how to isolate Ergothioneine from mushrooms. I donated money to Penn State University and helped finance research underlying her PhD thesis and she published that. It’s one of the most state-of-the-art food agriculture universities in the United States. They’re also one of the foremost mushroom research institutions in the world. A couple of those people are on my scientific advisory board—Dr. Beelman of the Food Science department and Dr. Dan Royce, who’s an expert on growing mushrooms.
Dr. Dirk Gründemann of the University of Cologne in Germany made the important discovery of the Ergothioneine Transporter (ETT), and it is his opinion that wherever you have ETT you also have or need Ergothioneine, this very potent amino acid. So I started the ball rolling. I spoke with Dr. Gründemann, found the patent on this, which had actually gotten lost, and I made a deal and we own it now. And so ETT is a gene that every vertebrate has. But you can’t manufacture the substance the gene wants—Ergothioneine.
Dr. Solomon Snyder, Chairman of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, stated that Ergo is a key cellular protectant and may be considered a new vitamin. He says that this could be one of the most important protectors of cells in the world. He came to that conclusion by depleting cells of the transporter. All the cells developed DNA damage and became cancerous. Which is staggering. He implies that if you’re exposed to radiation—and there was no Fukushima disaster when he wrote this—Ergothioneine protects your cells against radiation damage and protects you against DNA damage. We think that Ergothioneine is one of the most potent creators of life. Mushrooms have this potent antioxidant, and they’re the only ones in the world that can produce it to any sizable degree. The only other place you can get it is in blue-green algae.
Spirulina, for example?
Cyanobacteria, yes. And mycobacteria.
Which mushrooms have the best properties?
All mushrooms have it. Some have it more than others.
What mushrooms are you focusing on?
We study about ten, including Pleurotus eryngii, or king oyster, which is edible and you can find in the supermarket, Maitake, Shitake, Cordyceps from Tibet, Agaricus blazei from Brazil—and for our purposes, the ones we use are all grown organically here in the US. Some mushrooms consist of fruit bodies, and others consist of a nutrient biomass and are grown on oats, barley or rice.
What is one of the more astonishing breakthroughs you’ve come across in this research?
There’s an article that shows you the economic impact, for example, of what we’re talking about: An Estimate of The Economic Burden of Premature Deaths Due to Vitamin D Deficiency in Canada. Canada says—and this was a couple of years ago, in 2009—“It is estimated that the death rate could fall by 37,000 deaths.” This is 16.1 percent of the annual medical deaths in Canada, and the economic burden can decrease by $14.4 billion, if you bring vitamin D levels back to normal. That’s staggering. Now multiply that in the United States. Mushrooms produce Vitamin D2. Your skin can produce D3. You may have different receptors in your brain for D2 versus D3. We’re looking at that.
So once somebody already has a disease, diabetes for example, will it help them to take the supplements?
We think it does. That’s what we’re setting up the studies to show. We already know that a certain number of people that were on our earlier product, GlucoSANO, were able to lower their dosage of insulin and/or oral diabetic drugs. And so we’re now launching clinical studies in different countries. We have studies ongoing now.
Do you think there’s been an increase in immunodeficiency diseases in recent years?
Why do you think that is?
Possibly your body’s reacting to the sugar you eat, your body’s reacting to other chemicals in your environment—and by reacting to those chemicals it’s rejecting its own tissues and destroying itself. That’s autoimmunity. Most diseases are autoimmune—Graves’ disease, Alopecia in women is an autoimmune condition. We think that Ergo and vitamin D2 in mushrooms could protect you, and we’re trying to prove that. It’s not a drug. It’s called a medical food. It’s a whole new concept of treating disease through foods.
How do we, as a society, get back to eating whole foods and better nutrition?
Well, we were hunter-gatherers. But at one time we didn’t eat meat. We ate tubers and roots and grains, and we may have had less disease in those days. I think nutrition-wise we have to go back and look at what really is healthy nutrition. Our society has become addicted to processed and fast foods with all the negative ramifications. We have forgotten that natural whole foods have the potential to maintain normal health and prevent disease. I think the answer is reprogramming the body.
But how do we reprogram the body?
When you go to sleep at night, do you think how you fed your cells during the day so that they wake up nice in the morning? This is where the world has to go. And so that’s what we do—nutrigenomics-based positions. We stimulate demand through education; we also partner with leaders in health, beauty and agriculture. There are other companies doing it, but we’re actually doing clinical research on the products we’re producing here. So when we increase vitamin D2, we want to show efficacy. Anemia/diabetes—we have an ongoing study in Los Angeles. We want to do two more studies on this. We formed a relationship with a company up north called LifeSpan BioSciences. They’re one of the largest immunohistochemistry companies in the world. Immuno- means immunology, like autoimmune, or your body’s defenses. Histo- means pathology, histology, cells. They have specimens so that we can go into the body and say, okay, I want to look at ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
What is some of the current research you’re working on?
We just completed a Parkinson’s disease study at Harvard Medical School. I’m writing an article on Parkinson’s.
Diabetes is an epidemic now. It will soon be the biggest killer in the world and will bankrupt every health care system. We are currently doing research on diabetes in the Caribbean in Trinidad and Bonaire. About 1.4 million people live on the island of Trinidad. I’ve been told recently that 35 percent of the children there are going to develop diabetes. The economic impact is staggering on that nation.
I would like to launch a study on Huntington’s, a very well circumscribed, neurodegenerative disease.
You have also started a line of cosmetics and beauty products. How did that develop?
We feel that beauty starts from the inside. Most cosmetic companies put everything on the outside. They don’t help you feed the cells that replace your skin. So when you add chemicals to your hair for coloring and add hair straighteners, you’re destroying your normal hair cells. These chemicals don’t give you back nutrition. We believe that at the same time you go to a salon, you should be providing good nutrition for your skin and hair. Mushrooms produce melanin, which is your skin color. We know that when you take a mushroom that is high in Ergothioneine, you’re supporting your stem cells in your skin. So we make skin creams out of it now. My wife won’t go to sleep at night without using it. She just thinks it’s unbelievable.
Who else can benefit from your products?
A lot of bodybuilders are using our products because they can lose weight, and we have data now that show your muscle mass can increase if you work out. You’ll find that your energy levels increase. It’s because you’re feeding your cells. You’re adding energy to your cells. We also have data now showing how we can increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of cells. We have a GROH product for hair growth. We made a big discovery in that area. We’re a large supplier of this product to some of the larger salons in the United States.
So on top of all this you have a vineyard and you make wine. Do you have very much time left in the day to devote to that?
It’s called Quailhurst Vinyard Estate. My wife runs a lot of that. She helps me out.
How did you get into winemaking?
I started doing this because of Alzheimer’s disease. I only grow pinot grapes. When I started researching mushrooms, I also wanted to find out if there were any antioxidants in wine, so I planted the vineyard. We do pinot noir studies and we drink the wine, but we also study the antioxidants in grapes. We filed patents on it. We’re working to replace sulfur dioxide (SO2) in wine—a preservative. We figured out how to do it from mushrooms—Ergothioneine from mushrooms! The Canadian government just issued our food and beverage preservation patent. So we may revolutionize the wine industry, because sulfur dioxide is a chemical. A lot of women are sensitive to it. They get headaches.
So in lieu of adding a chemical—
Or add less. It dates back to the Romans and the Greeks, when they had sulfur caves. They used to burn sulfur, and before they closed the bottle they put the sulfur inside—sulfur dioxide. And we’ve never changed it.
It sounds like you offer something that is beneficial to just about everyone. Where are your products available?
For more information visit entiabio.com