Household Appliance “Tycoon” Ventures into Entrepreneurship, GeneIII Achieves Industrial-Scale Production of Ergothioneine in Just Two Years

Wei Ding

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Wei Ding, the founder and chairman of GeneIII, holds a master’s degree in materials engineering from Beijing University of Science and Technology and a dual master’s degree in materials engineering from the University of Nevada, USA. Prior to founding GeneIII, he served as Senior Vice President and China President of A.O. Smith Corporation and CEO of Hengjie Group, holding more than 20 original patented technologies.

With over 20 years of experience in the home appliance industry and his role as CEO at Hengjie Group, Wei Ding is now in his 60s, but he remains full of energy. However, during an interview with Wei Ding, one can’t help but wonder why he ultimately ventured into the field of health and skincare based on synthetic biology.

Many things aren’t planned; they just happen due to fate,” says Wei Ding, the founder and chairman of GeneIII. His interest in the health and skincare field can be traced back to 20 years ago when he was still working in the home appliance industry. During that time, Ding noticed a South Korean company that had converted water softeners into beauty devices, which inspired him.

When Wei Ding later joined Hengjie Group, he planned to develop a beauty showerhead that could spray small molecule beauty water directly. In this project, he met Dr. Wang, a pharmaceutical doctorate holder from Oregon State University and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Dr. Wang possessed multiple patented technologies in synthetic biology and could produce beauty and skincare ingredients using gene-editing techniques. Subsequently, Wei Ding and Dr. Wang co-founded the synthetic biology company GeneIII, focusing on developing bioactive ingredients, functional skincare products, and health supplements.

Their foray into the synthetic biology field led them to discover a natural antioxidant called ergothioneine  that is highly regarded in the skincare industry. ergothioneine has exceptional antioxidant properties, capable of targeting mitochondria through specific transporter protein OCTN-1, directly eliminating free radicals. It is the only antioxidant ingredient known to penetrate mitochondria directly through cell membranes.

Despite its potential, ergothioneine’s high price tag was a limitation due to the complex extraction process and limited supply sources. Around 2017, the market price of ergothioneine exceeded $30 million per kilogram, making it an expensive and scarce ingredient. By 2021, advances in biotechnological extraction had brought the market price down to $300,000 per kilogram, but it was still relatively expensive. Wei Ding explained, “Because of ergothioneine’s high cost, not every brand could afford it, and even if they could, they were hesitant to use it in large quantities. Most skincare products only contained around 10PPM of Ergothioneine, which, in reality, was insufficient to fully utilize its antioxidant capabilities.”

Given these circumstances, GeneIII, established only a few years ago, decided to focus on Ergothioneine as its core ingredient and committed to mass-producing it through biotechnology to lower costs and make it more accessible for skincare products. This strategy aimed to enable the inclusion of a more substantial amount of Ergothioneine in skincare products. The confidence to pursue this goal stemmed from the strong research and development team at GeneIII.

Dr. Wang, co-founder and chief scientist at GeneIII, held a Ph.D. in pharmaceuticals from Oregon State University and had over ten years of experience in synthetic biology. He had mastered gene-editing techniques a decade earlier. Dr. Wang described gene-editing as the design and modification of DNA programs within bacteria, allowing them to extract genes from rare fungi such as Ganoderma lucidum and Matsutake mushrooms to produce Ergothioneine and other rare ingredients.

At GeneIII, Dr. Wang led a research team dedicated to the independent development and mass production of Ergothioneine. Ergothioneine produced through synthetic biology boasted high purity, low impurities, low production costs, environmental safety, and high production efficiency. The latest test results indicated that Ergothioneine from GeneIII had a purity level of 99.9%.

As a leading synthetic biology technology company in China, GeneIII achieved breakthroughs in engineering Thioketone’s mass production. Leveraging a GMP-standard pharmaceutical production platform, the company produced Ergothioneine raw materials with pharmaceutical-grade purity and mastered the fermentation and purification processes in 20-ton fermentation tanks. This made GeneIII the first major Ergothioneine producer in China with a full-scale production chain.

Backed by its strong research and development capabilities, GeneIII’s Ergothioneine product line garnered positive market responses. The company introduced Ergothioneine into its skincare brand “HA&EGT” and oral Ergothioneine capsules in 2023. The capsules, considered health supplements, exhibited groundbreaking improvements in safety, content, and quality. Each capsule contained 25mg of Ergothioneine, equivalent to the Ergothioneine content in a pound of fresh Ganoderma lucidum. The capsules received unanimous praise from consumers for their outstanding benefits in improving sleep, delaying aging, and enhancing overall health.

In Wei Ding’s perspective, GeneIII’s ability to independently develop and mass-produce Ergothioneine within two years was attributed to their dual focus on building a talented workforce and product innovation. Wei Ding emphasized the importance of precise positioning and understanding customer needs, as well as fostering innovation within the company. As of now, GeneIII has a research and development team of over 60 members, with 60% holding postgraduate degrees, including three biology Ph.D. holders like Dr. Wang.

To align their research more closely with market demand, GeneIII regularly invites beauty bloggers, formulation experts, and medical material suppliers to participate in research and development seminars. This approach helps extract innovative research topics from real customer demands and pain points. Wei Ding’s goal is to create a collaborative atmosphere in which the research and development team responds to market demand, truly innovating to solve industry challenges and address user needs.

Considering the broader market landscape, Ergothioneine holds significant promise. As one of the first Chinese companies to pioneer Ergothioneine research and development using synthetic biology and hold patented technology, GeneIII has successfully completed the full Ergothioneine production chain. With the synthetic biology trend leading the way, Ergothioneine is poised for broader applications in skincare, oral health supplements, and medical and health fields.

Find out how Ergothioneine can be used in your health products