The Odyssey to Power Defender®
In Silicon Valley, Robert Chen and Tony Chen are the father and son team behind Fortune Drink’s Power Defender®. The journey to the Power Defender® launch began nearly three years ago with Robert first taking a hard look at liver disease in China. Later, the pair would apply what they learned to the U.S. as well.
Liver disease is a major cause of illness and death worldwide. In China alone, liver diseases, primarily viral hepatitis (predominantly hepatitis B virus, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and alcoholic liver disease, affect approximately 300 million people. Liver (disease) and liver cancer, is one of the most deadly cancers, and is the second-most common cancer in China. Approximately 477,000 people die from liver cancer every year in China, which accounts for a whopping 51% of the deaths from liver cancer worldwide. One can see why an inquiry into liver health might start with China.
Contributing negative factors include Hepatitis A and Hepatitis C, polluted air quality, unclean water and questionable food safety… but the largest driver behind liver issues in China is frequent heavy alcohol consumption. It is not uncommon to go out drinking up to five nights a week!
In his career, Robert headed Asia Pacific offices for Fortune 500 corporations such as Motorola, Compaq Computer, Symantec and Digital Equipment. In these roles, he headed up sales activities worth over $500.0 million of dollars and had to understand the culture in which sales in Asia are conducted.
He knew that business negotiations in China usually take place with a 10-course dinner accompanied with lots and lots of Chinese baijiu, a 52% alcohol distilled spirit. Similar to vodka… but stronger, baiju has twice the alcohol content of Japaned shōchū and Korean soju (20–45%). Never heard of it? Turns out that baiju It is the most widely consumed spirit in the world, with 5 billion liters sold in 2016.
Let’s pause briefly here to talk about the toxin ammonia created when the body tries to metabolize that drink you just put down. This will be a key factor in our story…
Alcohol causes ammonia levels to build up in the body. Our brains are normally protected from the low levels of ammonia in your body by the blood-brain barrier. However, alcohol can cause ammonia levels to build up in your brain causing permanent brain damage, a condition known as hepatic encephalopathy. This is a particular risk in people with the impaired liver function such as fatty liver… a condition that is frighteningly more common than you might think (more on this later). So remember this… high ammonia levels in your body are bad. Very bad.
Robert contacted Dr. Scott Nyberg, Medical Director and Liver Transplant Surgeon, at the world-famous Mayo Clinic. Through this relationship, Robert’s company signed an agreement with Mayo Clinic’s for liver dialysis treatment (a process to remove ammonia from the bloodstream and liver regeneration to China. In layman’s terms, we can think of process as something similar to kidney dialysis in that the blood flows out of the body via an IV, treated in a machine, and then flows back into the body.
Over a steak dinner and several rounds of fine whiskey, Robert discussed removing ammonia from the body with his medical advisor, Dr. Vincent Lai. A gastroenterologist practicing at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore, Dr. Lai is a natural match for this topic. His clinical interests include liver failure due to excessive consumption of alcohol, viral hepatitis (liver inflammation) and liver transplantation. Dr. Lai attained his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Sheffield, UK in 1993. He then pursued 5 years of specialist training in gastroenterology (stomach and intestine) and another 5 years at the University of Birmingham, UK. During his time at one of the largest liver transplant units in Europe, he gained much exposure to general and transplant hepatology, particularly the management of acute liver failure due to alcohol and viral hepatitis. He was accredited by the Specialist Accreditation Board in gastroenterology in England in 2006.
At a point in the conversation, Robert was discussing how the amino acid, L-Ornithine is known to remove the toxin ammonia. “If you put this in a dietary pill, we would have an easier way to remove ammonia than having to hook up someone to a dialysis machine.”
“How long would it take to make this available?” asked Dr. Lai.
“Not long to develop”, answered Robert. “But clinical trials could take years and years”.
Dr. Lai: “Isn’t this already regarded as safe and available as a dietary supplement?”
Robert, with a sudden realization… “Why yes, we could develop a dietary supplement formulation with L-Ornithine as a key ingredient to support liver health. In fact, it could also drastically help with hangover symptoms!”
Building the Right Formula
Fortune Drink Inc. Medical Advisors researched other ways to remove ammonia toxins from the brain. In further discussions with Dr. Vincent Lai The Medical Advisors found that a second amino acid L-Arginine aids in the detoxification of ammonia. As a huge bonus, arginine naturally converts into nitric oxide which has a reputation for expanding blood vessels and improving sex life for some. In fact, the 1998 Nobel Prize was awarded to three American doctors for their discovery of nitric oxide’s cardiovascular benefits and the expansion of blood vessels.
Additional research resulted in adding DHM, known to combat another alcohol related toxin called acetaldehyde. Fortune Drink’s team of PhD’s further added milk thistle, anti-oxidants and 27 Vitamins … for a patent pending formulation with twin goals: addressing immediate hangover symptoms and promoting longer term balance and health. Power Defender® was born.
In early 2017, Robert invited his son Tony to helm the launch Fortune Drink Inc. Tony has more than 20 years experience in managing Hi-tech Companies in Silicon Valley with a degree in Applied Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from UC Berkeley. Tony has worked with numerous Silicon Valley startups as well as Fortune 500 companies such as Sun Microsystems/Oracle. Additionally, Tony has nearly a decade worth of experience working at startups and at SolarCity/Tesla on renewable energy project development during the high growth years of solar, energy storage, and other renewables. Says Tony, “Robert is more the visionary. I like go-to market strategy, analysis, and then execution”. We compliment each other well.”