Basic Info

Name:
Alvin Berger
Contributor Status:
Native AdVice
Initial Contribution Date:
02/08/2017
Primary Location:
Minneapolis, MN, USA

Career Info

Primary Industry:
Biotechnology, Medical / Pharmaceuticals
Personal Career Headline:
CEO, SCIADONICS
Business Description (One-Liner):

Lipid research startup.

More Career Details:
PhD
Experience Timeline:
21-30 years of work experience

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Career Snapshot:

Dr. Alvin Berger has 30 years of research experience in nutritional and pharmaceutical sciences in both academ-ic and commercial settings. He has been responsible for leading teams and identifying research directions to support business goals, and developing, designing and releasing new products. Alvin has a demonstrated ability to evaluate scientific merits and commercial feasibility of concepts and products. He has managed substantial budgets and obtained funding from government agencies. He is a champion for utilizing novel and disruptive technologies (such as “omics”) and adapting processes to resolve research obstacles. Alvin is able to analyze research data to generate clear, concise reports and presentations for lay, business, and scientific audiences. He is a published expert on signaling and nutritional aspects of lipids, with a broad knowledge of whole body metabolism and current trends in nutrition research and product development. He is a scholar publishing his findings in eminent journals, innovative thinker, problem solver and polished presenter.

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How did you get into the industry?:

I have a BS, MS, post-MS training, Ph. D, Post-Doctoral Fellowship, and am a Full Professor of Nutrition and lipid nutrition and biochemistry. As part of my Ph. D thesis at UC Davis, I was interested in the plant-based diets of indigenous peoples, and realized they consumed many unusual conifer (gymnosperm) seeds. After my colleagues and I demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in 22 human cell and rodent studies, Sciadonics, Inc. was formed to commercialize oils containing sciadonic acid. Separately from Sciadonics, Inc. we commercialized C8 KetoMCT oils (ketomct.com; Life Sense International) to help my son combat his type 1 diabetes. Existing companies sold similar products but lacked the technical expertise to credibly offer these products in our opinion.

Emerging industry trends?:

As a lipid (fat) specialist, the major trends relevant to my companies, are that fats are good for us again; we cannot blame saturated fats on contributing to all our modern diseases; and ketogenic product such as C8 KetoMCT and our upcoming low carbobohydrate products are healthy for us.

Industry opportunities and challenges?:

A big challenge in starting a totally unique business such as Sciadonics, Inc. for oral use is that investors and companies wanted us to have completed safety-, regulatory-, dose-response-  and clinical efficacy work, before they would consider funding, partnering, or purchasing our oils/branded active ingredients. We had very good anti-inflammatory results with application of sciadonic acid to human cells and mouse ears previously; and more recently rather remarkable topical anti-inflammatory results in humans. Thus, we have altered the business plan to first focus on sciadonic-acid rich oils for topical applications. In the case of Life Sense International’s C8 KetoMCT oil, our complete honesty and integrity (see http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Manufacturers/MCT-product-developers-tout-their-clean-story) can ironically lead to less sales because we do not sell our products based on exaggerated marketing hype and claim that other companies may employ, and thus consumers consider our product to be inferior (when in fact, the opposite is true).

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?:

After 30 years of working for nutrition and lipid companies, I was confident I had the requisite skills to start nutrition businesses. I am totally disinterested in “me-too” types of products and companies, and by having my own companies, I can let my out-of-the-box type of thinking lead to development of truly innovative and trust-worthy products. My business partner is an E-commerce marketing expert, and direct to consumer web based sales expert, so she supports this part of the business, and makes sure the communication is understandable by non-technical consumers.

What's next for the Business in the near future?:

For Life Sense International, after a long development cycle due to our stringent quality control standards, we will roll out 5 or so new SKUs, all low carb, functionally efficacious products. For Sciadonics Inc., keep checking the website to follow our commercial launches.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business? Greatest Accomplishment?:

We have participated in various podcasts and radio shows, and made some creative videos. These activities have really help advance our businesses.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?):

For Life Sense International’s KetoMCT oil business, understanding the whimsical, sometimes illogical nature of being a seller on Amazon has been a real challenge. We learned that perseverance, patience, resourcefulness, and even letters to Jeff Bezos can be useful.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?:

Our customers appreciate our awesome customer service, technical understanding our products, and trustworthiness.

How do you motivate others?:

Although we work long hours, but productivity in a shorter amount of time is what we strive for. We strive to find solutions to our challenges and expect the same quality in our employees.

Career advice to those in your industry?:

For the nutrition industry, I would recommend to have a good academic understanding of nutrition such as an advanced degree, work in the industry for many years to gain experience, and only after that attempt to start your own business(es).

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What do you do best?:

My most important strengths are to multi-task effectively, avoid distractions, stay super-focused, be goal oriented each day, and think out-of-the-box.

What makes you the best?:

From a young age, I was raised to read classical (unabridged) literature and poetry, enjoy the arts, attend theatre performances, (Broadway), listen to classical music and Opera, and question everything around me, particularly the Cosmos and our meaningfulness but mostly insignificance of our existence. This type of up brining lead me to be inquisitive and to think out-of-the-box in my latter scientific endeavors.

What are your aspirations? (Personal and Business):

My aspiration on the personal side is to keep my brain and body sharp despite my encroaching more advanced age. On the business side, we aspire to develop and sell many efficacious, world-class, innovative products to allow us to maintain a certain lifestyle, and improve human health.

Biggest Success?:

My biggest success professionally has been to publish world class, pioneering research in scientific Journals like Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, while employed in industry. Personally, my biggest success has been to find the perfect wife when our paths crossed in Toronto Canada; and that led to having two awesome children.

Most Challenging Moment?:

As a competitive Junior Olympian and collegiate gymnast at the University of Michigan, I was working out 3-5 hours per day, and travelling every weekend during the competitive season, which created tremendous pressure and led to lack of sleep. Thereafter, I was in school for 16 years obtaining advanced degrees. Although I have filled my head with knowledge and some wisdom, the sacrifice was a lack of financial stability and geographical instability, and impacts on my personal relationships. In the end, I have become a very strong leader who is not easily intimidated by the challenges of starting new businesses. In terms of a single challenging personal  and professional decision, moving from my comfortable nutrition/lipid position with Nestle in Lausanne Switzerland to Toronto Canada to work for a non-nutrition, Pharma company, was a particularly difficult decision, with many challenges awaiting.

Motto?:

Work hard, play hard.

Favorite People/Role Models?:

Albert Einstein

Favorite Places/Destinations?:

Seattle Washington, for offering a great urban experience and quick access to amazing hikes and outdoor experiences; Switzerland for its awesome, boundless beauty; and the Minneapolis vicinity for its amazing lakes (the long and frigid winters are great for meditation and reflection, family bonding, long saunas, billiards, and cross country skiing through sparsely populated forests sans the wild life).

Favorite Products/Objects?:

My main hobby is road cycling, so my bicycle is my favorite object.

Current Passions?:

Telling creative stories at bedtime to my young children, with no watering down of vocabulary, since they were two years of age, and answering “what does that word mean”, with an equally complex word. Now, they both have great vocabularies for their ages.

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