In modern society, most of us do most everything under artificial light - at the office, at the gym, at the store. The light bulb allows us to not be beholden to the sun...it's clearly a huge technological step forward.
Yet, have we gone too far? What if we’re missing something valuable to our health and performance from sunlight and the parts of the spectrum that are missing from artificial light?
Scott Nelson, the co-founder of Joovv, is working to help us better understand this question. Scott has spent much of his career in leadership positions at some of the largest medicine technology companies, Medtronic and Boston Scientific to name two. Now with Joovv, he is commercializing full-body red light therapy and photobiomodulation devices designed for consumer use.
What is red light therapy and its benefits? Users report improved skin, accelerated muscle recovery, enhanced cognitive ability...even increased testosterone production.
These are sweeping claims. Is it too good to be true?
Host Geoffrey Woo raises up this exact question and more to Scott, and we learned a ton about Joovv's approach to red light therapy and how we can all benefit from being more thoughtful of the light we're around.
Scott, thanks for beaming in. Great to have you on the program.
Looking forward to the conversation, and I really appreciate you having me on the show.
So your product Joovv a red light therapy photo biomodulation device has been my latest toy. So, thanks for sending that over about one and a half weeks ago. I've been using a daily over the last seven, 10 days, and we'll dive into that. But before specifically going into the meat of the conversation, I think it'd be good to give our audience a sense of your background. I know you have experience in medical devices. How was your journey going from, I would say more traditional medical devices, to something more on the cutting edge of human performance in the bio hacking community, if you will.
Yeah, in one word I'd probably say interesting, for sure. Because there's been a lot of overlap, but also just a lot of new interesting areas to explore kind of within the broader, general kind of ... broader wellness community, which I can touch on. But to answer your question in short, I've spent my entire professional career in traditional med tech. So, we actually ... We were kind of chatting about this before we hit the record button here. But we re-relocated Joovv, our company, from Minneapolis about a year and a half ago to Southern California. But we were in Minneapolis primarily because it's medical alley, it's the Silicon Valley of traditional med tech. And so more specifically, I've always kind of operated within the broader cardiovascular arena. Peripheral vascular to be more specific. So, think stents and balloons in your arteries, or veins. Atherectomy catheters, thrombectomy catheters.
So very, very traditional medical device. And so Joovv is very unique, and our or red light therapy I should say is really unique in the sense that it's quickly being adopted sort of within the bio hacking, longevity, general wellness circles. But it's also ... you touched on it, you called it photo biomodulation. That's what academics refer to red light therapy as, and it's a sub specialty of medicine supported by tons of peer reviewed research. So, it's kind of a ... it's a very unique blend in the sense that there's a ton of clinical data, which is super exciting to me personally, just because I've always ... that's my background. But also, it's super cutting edge, and very much in the world of like bio hacking, and longevity hacks, and whatnot. So it's an interesting kind of overlap between the two.
Yeah. Did you come from more of a biomedical engineering perspective, or more of a business side in terms of your medical tech experience?
So, my undergrad's in biology. So, I've studied science in school, but my experience on the medical device side has always been in the commercialization capacity. So, primarily business. I was most recently with Medtronic, it's the largest medical device company in the world. But we were ... Covidien was acquired by Medtronic and so I've led downstream marketing for the endovenous business at Medtronic. And that sounds kind of like ... The thing that's interesting about like true medical device, or true med tech, is that I led downstream marketing, but that's very much a very product centric role. it's really honestly more of a general business role than the kind of what most people think of marketing. But yeah, but I mean, but to answer your question though, yeah, y experience has always been on the commercialization side.
A lot of the battle is commercialization technology, right?
I think something could be very cool in the clinical trial on an animal model, on a cellular model, but can really translate that into a human everyday person on the street? And I think that's like a good big challenge for a lot of translational work. So-
Yeah, no doubt.
And I think that's been something that was interesting as I was looking at literature. Like the space is not necessarily novel as you were saying. A lot of people have been looking at the space from a medical perspective over the years. And it does seem over the last couple of years, perhaps due to your good work educating the world that's more recently had been invoked. So, interesting to hear that journey. But what triggered you to look at photo biomodulation? Obviously, if you came from more of a cardiovascular perspective that's pretty far afield from shooting lasers at your face.
Yeah, no doubt. No doubt. It's vastly different. I wish I could say I poured into the clinical data up front and I saw it very niche that I thought we could have strong product market fit. I wish I could say all that, but that's not how it happened at all. So, I was knee deep in the traditional med tech world as we discussed. But actually my sister-in-law Melissa, and then my wife, Liz, they actually purchased, and I'm using air quotes for anyone that's listening to this, and not watching on video, but they purchased red light therapy package at a local salon ... I'm sorry, a local spa in Minneapolis that was advertising red light therapy for all of the the wide variety of benefits that you can get from this type of treatment. And they went consistently to the spa four or five times a week for like over the course of like eight to 10 weeks.
I actually saw really good results primarily for skin benefits. So, reduced Eczema, reduced stretchmarks and that kind of thing. Kind of traditional anti aging stuff. I mean, they noticed really good results for it, were kind of excited about it. But going to a spa or any sort of like commercial facility like that on a consistent basis is onerous. Right? It's not overly budget friendly, and really more probably more importantly, it's just not very convenient at all. And so Melissa actually, she tasked her husband, Justin, who's an engineer to like try to figure out some sort of device that they could use at home. And he started looking at devices, kind of building out some prototypes, and then we quickly realized that most products on the market were either like very small handheld devices, and there's a lot of those out there. Most of those are underpowered, so you're kind of limited to the treatment area, and also you have to use them forever in order to receive a clinically relevant dose of energy.
And so, there wasn't a lot of products at the time, and so he started kind of playing around with different prototypes. And then we kind of just started getting together and thinking, "Well, this is kind of interesting." And so my med tech background, I quickly dug in at the clinical data. I was like, This sounds really woo woo. Like a far cry from stents, and balloons, and that kind of stuff. So, I looked at the clinical data and I was blown away. I mean, there's no other way to describe it but by blown away by the sheer amount of peer reviewed published clinical data. I mean, there's over 200 double ... And we're talking about really good, well-structured studies too. I mean there's over 200 double blind placebo controlled studies on continuous wave light therapy alone.
There's over 3000 published studies, manuscripts, etc., in peer review journals on this subject matter, of photo biomodulation. So, like you'd be hard pressed to find any other therapy in traditional kind of Western health care or alternative kind of medicine that's supported by that much data, that much published science. So, I was blown away, so I was like, "Wow, this is kind of interesting. There's not really a lot of product offerings and yet there's a ton of science to support the therapy." There seems to be like there seems to be something here that we could explore. And so that kind of led us down the early ... that was the very early in Joovv, kind of dating back to mid 2015, which led to the eventual launch of our first product in early 2016.
Definitely want to listen to the entrepreneurial journey, so it's actually with the Harvard Business, I think we'll talk about that. But I want to focus on the science first. And I think when I initially got keyed into the area, I think I had a similar reaction. I'm an engineer by background. It's kind of like, can you shine light and improve performance? Right? I think a lot of these things that we see in the health and wellness industry is like, is this legit? Is this not? And I think that for better or for worse is the nature of making claims that could be like very, very cool. So, what ... And I think if you look at all the people that talk about it, there's whole plethora of claims that people do make.
And like my sense is that, the skin treatment data seems to be the most robust, but I'm not the expert in the room. I'm curious to get your perspective, out of all the different claims where you have folks like Ben Greenfield talk about shining the light in his nether regions and then getting testosterone boost, to muscle recovery, to skin, as you mentioned, to hair, hair loss. Could you stack rank for us in terms of the data and the robustness of that data?
I think it probably falls into probably three to four key buckets. And there's a lot of data to support each of these buckets. So, you named the first one, skin health. In fact, that probably represents our largest patient base, even though that we don't overly promote our devices or the therapy in general for skin health. That is supported by a large amount of scientific data. So, skin health. The other one would be muscle recovery, and/or athletic performance in general. There's a ... And it's kind of surprising to me to this date that there hasn't been any other companies that have really sort of done what we've done, and really kind of raise awareness for the legitimate science to support all of the athletic training and muscle recovery benefits that come with red and near infrared light therapy.
And that's evidenced by like the very quick adoption that we're seeing in the professional sports communities, college athletics, etc. Because I think those early adopters are always looking for an edge, and then they also have a lot of science to fall back on. So muscle recovery/athletic training would be another big bucket. And then the third one would probably be joint pain and inflammation. Maybe quickly followed by a sort of, if you want to call it brain health, cognitive function, reduce symptoms from TBI and concussion related symptoms etc. So, that would probably be maybe the fourth one. So, kind of joint pain and inflammation followed by the reduction of ... or the enhancement of overall brain function.
I'm curious to understand the mechanism of action of each of those different use cases. So, I think to clarify and zoom in on specifically the technology you're working with, you're talking about a very specific wavelength of light. It's not just like shining a flashlight or some random red light bulb on your body. This is a specific wavelength of light that you're targeting on specific areas in the body. Could you describe the actual device and actual technology? And maybe disambiguate that from, I'm putting on a red plastic wrap around a flashlight. Why is ... Maybe we start there. How is it different from just like shinning a red light on your body?
In terms of the general mechanism of action, the reason ... like you see all of these claims, right? All of these benefits, that almost sound too good to be true ... not almost, they do sound too good to be true I think to most people, and a lot of people are introduced to this therapy have a healthy amount of skepticism, because the claims and the benefits are so wide ranging. But it all comes back to this core mechanism of action that these specific wavelengths of light, red and then near infrared light. So, visible red light that we can all see, and then near infrared light. So, not mid and far infrared, because infrared wavelengths, that's actually a pretty broad spectrum. We're talking about near infrared light that's invisible to the naked eye. So these specific wavelengths of light fall within something called the optical or therapeutic window, which is kind of a relatively narrow band of wavelengths within the entire light spectrum, that's been shown to actually enhance mitochondrial activity within our cells.
So, it actually helps the Mitochondria, the powerhouses of ourselves produce more ATP, more cellular energy. And by doing that, because we have cells throughout our entire body outside of maybe our blood, that's why you see such a wide variety of benefits. Everything from skin health to muscle recovery, to enhance cognitive function, to weight loss to ... It is, it sounds like a QVC commercial, but it all kind of goes back to that core mechanism of action that these specific wavelengths of light in this relatively narrow range, narrow spectrum, they actually help yourselves function the way they were supposed to, produce more cellular energy.
So, are you making like the ATP production more efficient? Or what part of the, I guess the citric, the TCA are improving, or how are you plugging into the mitochondrial function?
There's an enzyme during cellular respiration, cytochrome c Oxidase, so CCO is the acronym that's often used in published research. When our cells are stressed out, CCO, that enzyme, tends to bind to excess nitric oxide. So, when our cells are stressed, we're also producing too much nitric oxide. So, nitric oxide can be a good thing, right? Especially when introduced into the bloodstream, you get a lot of vasodilation, increased kind of pumps so to speak. But too much can be a bad thing. And so when what happens is nitric oxide will bind to CCO, and that actually halts normal ATP production. CCO or Cytochrome c oxidase has a high affinity towards red and near infrared light, meaning these wavelengths actually excite it. Especially the copper component of CCO. So, it excites this enzyme, actually breaking that bond. So, it breaks the bond between CCO in nitric oxide, releasing nitric oxide into the vascular system.
And then cytochrome c oxidase is freed up actually to help create that natural gradient that you want within the electron transport chains. I mean, it gets super into the weeds and super technical, but that's sort of the most well understood mechanism of action. And we can certainly get into this in more detail, but there's also some interesting theories about other things at play that I think we'll probably continue to learn more as research evolves in this space. One of which is helping change the viscosity of metabolic water inside your mitochondria, and actually helping reduce something called deuterium levels, which high deuterium is a heavy-
It's heavy water. Heavy hydrogen, yeah.
Got it. And so that has ... Excess deuterium has a tendency to actually break the nanomotors in our cells. So these are like literally motors that push water through the electron transport chain. So, excess deuterium can actually in essence break those engines, so to speak. And red light actually helps lower deuterium levels. Red and near infrared light actually has been shown to help lower the deuterium levels. Same thing with ketogenic diets, right? Helping lower those deuterium levels, which actually helps cellular function. So, it's kind of cool this energy be between the two.
Yeah. That's like one thing I was actually going to touch upon because a lot of the argument, and I think a lot of the challenges with talking about keto diets or ketonesters, something that we produce, is that because we're talking about targeting metabolism as a baseline targets. Then if you can stack and improve that mitochondrial function, then yes, it sort of makes sense. You can improve all these different sorts of endpoints, because you can make ATP in your cells more efficiently. Well, it stands to reason that because it's such a core fundamental part of how our bodies work and function our cells functional work. You can imagine that, okay, if you're making them heal faster, a little bit more efficient, you can see these downstream effects.
So, that's interesting and I was hearing that, it sounds like one of the core mechanisms is improving the electron transport chain gradient. I know that for ketone metabolism they're targeting the delta G, gives free energy of site one and site two. So, it sounds like if cytochrome c is targeting a site four of the electron transport chain, it's targeting different locations on the electron transport chain, making that process a little bit more efficient.
I'm not going to pretend that I have a PhD in molecular biology or something like that or biochemistry, but you're exactly right. Different aspects of that electron chain transport, which is critical to cellular respiration, right? Which is, allows is sort of the description for how our sales produce more energy. But yeah, sort of different aspects at play, but at the end goal, you're right, it's allowing for more efficiency, especially during the fourth phase of cellular respiration. In fact, maybe arguably the world's leading researcher in this ... the topic of deuterium, he actually thinks ... It's his theory that one of The broader mechanisms for red and near infrared light therapy, or photo biomodulation, is changing the viscosity of that metabolic water. Which then helps enhance the efficiency of cellular respiration.
It's a theory, it's hasn't really been proven out to a great degree. But what's interesting is that there was some research published just recently by a group in Sydney, Australia that showcase that red and near infrared light actually helps enhance a healthier gut microbiome. Which is really counterintuitive because normally you wouldn't think these wavelengths of light could penetrate that deep into our body. But they suggested a different mechanism of action other than this ability to excite cytochrome c oxidase. And I think, I think there's some strong overlap there, right? Because if you can actually enhance ... If you're enhancing sort of the metabolic water within your cells, that has a lot of systemic benefits, which could include enhanced gut health. So, I think ... Anyway, long story short, there's like some well understood mechanism or like really one well understood mechanism, but there's also some different things-
We'll unpack, yeah. And I must admit that I'm less familiar with the concept of metabolic water, something that I'll look into. So, that sounds like interesting bedtime reading for me this week. Curious to hear or understand your thoughts around like the evolutionary mechanism of why red or near infrared red light seems to be reasonable for our mitochondria. I mean, I can imagine that ... I think some of the comments that I got into my social feeds when some of our audience members realized what we're going to be talking, was that a lot of people use this for seasonal, SAD-
Seasonal ... what's the-
Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Yeah. And that makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. If you're indoors all the time, we're not seeing sunlight, we're not getting that red infrared light from the sun itself. That seems to be a big part of why I could see something like this make sense from an evolutionary perspective. Is that one of the kind of drivers here, especially as our lifestyles have changed? We're just stuck indoors all the time. And it sounds like, given that you're targeting just the red and infrared light, are you also avoiding the harmful effects of UVA, UVB light? Curious to get your thoughts on that notion of the different ranges of light.
One aspect of this discussion is the impact that just light in general has in our lives. Right? And I think it's greatly underappreciated, which I'll discuss in a second. The other one is like the different impact that various wavelengths have in our circadian rhythm, or our circadian biology. So, I'll cover that in a second. But the ... And the first one will lead into the second one. But this concept of like light, natural light and artificial light in general, there's a pretty well understood stat that Americans now spend over 90% of our time indoors under artificial light. That's a pretty dramatic change that's happened over the last 50 to 75 years. And so ... Which is drastically different from like our ancestors. Our great ... Probably my ... You're and I, great grandparents for example, they did not spend 90% of their time indoors on artificial light. They largely probably woke up to the sunrise, maybe when went to bed during the sunset. And if they did use light, it was maybe incandescent sources with a low kelvin temperature, or candles or something like that.
And so, this lifestyle it is drastically different. And I think at first blush, most people would say, "Well, who cares? We just have better lighting tech." Right? And I would say, that's a good point, but yet you also have to think about it in perspective of sort of this evolutionary history. And can our bodies respond that fast to such a dramatic shift? I'm biased admittedly, but I would say no, and I think most people kind of in this kind of longevity bio hacking sphere would agree. That's such a drastic change in a short amount of time. Our bodies, that's atypical for our bodies.
And I think you would make the same argument for a ketogenic diet, or just diet in general.
Like the obesity rates, metabolic syndrome rates skyrocketing, really that has changed over the last 50, 75 years. So yeah, so I think it's a very parallel argument here.
Yeah. And that segues into kind of the second aspect is like, what's the impact on our circadian biology? It's interesting to see the sheer amount of research over the past few years that are beginning to showcase, especially blue light, the negative ramifications of excess blue light. And I think probably most people that are listening to this have at least heard about this idea. Wearing blue light blocking glasses at night. You have like the biggest tech players in the world, like Apple now, allowing you to sort of run sort of nighttime mode on your iPhone, etc. So, we're seeing like pretty dramatic changes in this category. But the reality is that most of us at night still have a bunch of blue light, right, emitting from devices. And that's very foreign.
Our, especially when we see through our eyes that are our circadian sort of clock, so to speak, tells us things that are ... it tells your body that it's midday, it's midday sun. I mean, this is the same type of light that's emitted from the natural sunlight during a large stretch of the day. And so, our bodies think it's mid day sun, but in reality it's time to shut down. And so, I think that that's a very foreign concept. And I'm knee deep in this stuff, and it's still something that I have to be overly cognizant of at night. I'm throw on my blue light blocking glasses, and I'm like try to ... We use light bulbs in our house that are lower in Kelvins, or more warm, a more warmer temperature. We're not extreme of like lighting candles and whatnot. But all of that matters, and I think most of the time it's just glossed over, this concept of, are we getting enough natural light? And then, maybe more importantly, what type of light are we exposed to during different parts of the day?
Most people understand how your body's responding to macronutrients, right? Proteins, fats, carbs. We all understand that our bodies will metabolize and digest those differently. Well, especially at different times of the day, right? I mean, anytime you're eating a bunch of carbohydrates at night, especially excess carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index, that's not great for your body. I think most people understand that. It's not too dissimilar to this concept of light. If you're blasting yourself with blue light past a certain time, it's not going to be great. If you're indoors all the time, not getting any sort of natural light, full spectrum, natural light, probably not a good thing. Right? And so, I think if you kind of put it within that framework, that context, I think it begins to make a little bit more sense for most people.
That makes sense, and I think I was really started to get clued in on this concept, talking to some of the folks at Aura ring, where they're talking about different wearable devices. And for example, an Apple watch that'll be shooting green lasers as their way to detect heart rate variability. And that's an interesting concept. Do you really want green laser going into your bloodstream? It just, I think it's this early, where people just don't understand the full ramifications of light on your body. So I think that's just a broader, interesting concept. I mean, if blue is typically associated with mid day sun, what is red? Why is red so special? What is green?
I think just from a subjective perspective, a lot of people say green is relaxing. Is that just subjective woo woo stuff? Is there some data behind that? Can we disambiguate the types of light? And why did you choose to focus on red? I guess from the argument from Cytochrome c oxidase, is that there's a biochemical reason why you chose red. But I'm wondering if you have a broader more evolutionary perspective answer to that question as well?
One of our core thesis as a company is to raise awareness for the legitimate science of light therapy and photo biomodulation. And when you look at the vast amount of peer review research, most of it's on that narrow spectrum of light that I mentioned earlier. That falls within the optical or therapeutic window. And when you sort of begin to peel back that layer, most of the time, the wavelengths of light that are studied are in the mid 600 range. So, red light in the mid 600 nanometer range. And nanometers is just a way of measuring light. But it's mid 600s, so red light in the mid 600 nanometer range, and then near infrared kind of in the low to mid 800 nanometer range. And so that's where the vast majority of clinical data demonstrates that those specific wavelengths of light have the greatest cal impact. That's not to say that green light, yellow light, etc., could have more relevance. It just hasn't been studied in great detail, and there's not a lot of studies do showcase a strong biological-
In my opinion, I think that will evolve and we'll probably begin to understand a little bit more about where we can best use green light or yellow light, etc. I think it's very, very early. I think we'll learn more, but there just isn't a lot of clinical data to showcase why those wavelengths aren't really clinically efficacious.
This might be kind of out of left field, but do you have a sense of the breakdown of natural sunlight? I mean, how much percentage of that is red versus blue, versus other spectrum?
It largely depends on your latitude like where you live, right? The time of year, etc. At a high level, there's much more red and near infrared light in the morning sunrise, and then especially at sunset. In fact, it's one of the things that we ... It's a common question that comes up, is people that, either whether they're using our devices or some other red light therapy device, what's the best time of day to use it?
And there's not hard clinical data to say you should use it at 9:00 AM or whatever. Again, it largely depends on the time of year, and where you live. But generally speaking, morning and evening because of sort of that evolutionary history of how our bodies have sort of adapted and evolved over time. And that we woke up to the sunrise, went to bed during the sunset. And those are the times of day where you see the most concentrated red and near infrared light.
And then in terms of the blue, so the blue is also just especially potent during the daylight. So, that's why in terms of circadian health, when people are looking at their LED iPhones, or Mac books, or their PCs, they're shooting basically signals into their eyes that hey, this is the time to wake up when you're supposed to be actually going to bed.
You got it. And I think even though the research it's burgeoning the in that area, like the impact of light on our circadian rhythm or our circadian biology. But it's still very early. There was three, I think, PhDs is that won the 2000 ... were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2017, so not too long ago. We're recording this in early 2019, for better understanding the mechanism of action for how our circadian rhythm is affected by receiving light within our retina. So, it's very early, it's not entirely well understood, but I think that's the biggest impact at play, especially at night. Because it's just a signal. You're signaling to your body that, we should be awake, it's bright daytime. When reality, it's 9:00, 10:00 at night, and it's just very foreign.
One of the funny concepts I think, and this is just going to be a little bit more philosophical, is that I feel like a big portion of the wellness industry is basically pushing us to just go back to our ancestral origins, right? It's like, okay, let's just go be farmers, let's wake up with the sun and go to bed when the sun sets. Obviously, I mean given the direction of this conversation, I mean we could advocate that would be one version of how we could live our lives. And you don't even need any of devices, just live like a farmer, as we we did 200 years ago.
But I think for most of us, at least I know I can speak for myself, that's probably not realistic for me, if I'm living in a modern world, in a modern economy. And I think most of our listeners that are listening to us on the podcast, and on YouTube, they're probably not going to be able to do that lifestyle. And it sounds like Joovv is this nice solution where, yes, ideally we could run around naked, get all the red light and infrared light by the sun for free. But we necessarily can't actually do that, and this is like ... you solve that problem for us. Okay, does the site ... The next best thing in terms of having this on demand is through something like a device like yours?
I do think it's best that we're just more aware and more cognizant of like, yes this Mac book that I'm using now, awesome, awesome technology, but let's be semi aware of are there any downstream ramifications of using it too much? Right? Especially during certain times of the day. And I think we're seeing like this underlying trend, right? I mean, we touched on it a little bit earlier with Apple giving ... on an iPhone you can now change ... you can use in a nighttime mode, so to speak, at night. So, we're seeing this like underlying trend of kind of being a little bit more cognizant, but I don't think it's terribly different framework than someone like Cal Newport, right? I'm not sure if you're familiar with his work, he wrote the ... I think his first book was Be so Good They Can't Ignore ... or Be so Good They Can't Ignore You. And then he recently published a book on digital minimalism. So, just understand this concept of social media can be a great tool, but like let's use it appropriately. Right?
And so it's not too different than other sort of underlying trends that are going on kind of outside of bio hacking and general wellness. But yeah, the reality is when it comes to light, if you're to the point where you kind of are on ... you're on the same track as this conversation that we're having and you're like, okay, maybe there's more to the story than I understand about light. And you're like, wait, I don't get enough natural sunlight. I'm in an office all day, or I live in a part of the world that just, we don't get a lot of sunlight. That's most of us like me included. Even though I live in southern California, it's still like, I'm not going to go outside naked and work all day. It's hard-
Right. We're indoors right now. Yeah.
Yeah. It's hard to ... It's raining here. It's hard to see my laptop when the sun's too bright. I'm just not going to like ... There's still work to be done, you know what I mean?
But at the same time, like that's where a high quality, high powered red light therapy device can be really beneficial. It's not too different than supplementing your diet with ketones protein powder or some sort of a green juice or something like that. You're giving your body what it needs in a very concentrated dose. That's pretty easy to comply with.
Yeah. I'm curious to see how your community has evolved. So, it sounds like from your sister-in-law and your wife, it was focused more on skincare. And obviously, it sounds like you've tapped into the human performance space, the athletics potentially. It sounds like a very similar journey from us in terms of going from ketones, from fasting, ketosis, and then if you're tapping against something so fundamental to metabolism, there's so many different applications from human performance, military applications, longevity applications. Curious to get a sense of how this journey has unfolded over the last couple of years in terms of skin to everything else you're engaging with now.
Yeah. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a business challenge of ours. Right? it's such a wide demographic or wide audience to serve, and as a bootstrap startup, you don't want to isolate any sort of audience, but it's hard to serve one thing to everyone at the same time. So, there's definitely business challenges there that will ... it'll still be ... the onus is on us to try and solve for that. But to kind of go back in time a little bit, yeah, out of the gate we were trying to find product market fit. When we first kind of were developing some early prototypes, we really wanted to optimize our devices for three things. One is making sure it delivered the clinically proven wave lengths of light, and being transparent about that. Ironically enough, there's still a lot of light therapy manufacturers that don't tell you what wavelengths are delivered from the device, which is a completely foreign concept.
It's like going to buy a car and they're like, "We can't tell you the horsepower of the engine." It's like, what? What do you mean you can't tell me? That's pretty important. So, wavelengths and then power. So, this is something that we still continue to differentiate on is, we wanted to deliver a clinically relevant dose in a short amount of time. We don't want people to have to use our devices for 20, 30, 45 minutes a day to get some sort of benefit. Ideally, it was like 10 minutes or less. And then the third one was treatment area. And I mentioned this kind of at the outset of our conversation is, most of the red light therapy products are pretty small. They're small little handheld devices. And when you look at the science, it's clear that full body light therapy or full body photo biomodulation is important.
In fact, it's one of our core beliefs that everyone should be using full body light therapy or full body photo biomodulation. So, it was those three things, wavelengths, power and treatment area. And that's what we designed for. But having said that, we wanted ... We were like let's try to find product market fit. LED therapy has been around in the skincare industry for a long time. Full body light therapy was a new concept. So we kind of started there. My sister runs her own medical spa, and so we started there just with the ... trying to answer the one question, will a complete stranger buy ... that's somewhat familiar with red light red light therapy, buy one of our big devices? That's what we kind of started with. And so, yeah, we saw some early traction there, but then started ... I think all of us are like, as kind of the core team at Joovv, or at least early on were into this kind of general wellness scene.
And just looking for ways to enhance just our overall health in a natural fashion. And so we started reaching out to some of the people that you mentioned earlier. Guys like Ben Greenfield, Katie, the one who's very well known for Wellness Mamma. Dr. Sarah Ballantine, Mark Sisson, etc., Audrey Marcus with the founder of ONNIT he runs his own podcast. And what we saw is like, it was right up their alley. Right? Because I think most people in that community, they love science. They love to dig into like, even if it's early, they still love to dig into it. But light therapy hadn't really been introduced into those communities. And so that to this day is still kind of our core ... that represents our core audience. But having said that, it's really quickly expanding beyond that.
One of the guys on our team, a younger guy, his undergrad is in like sports science. So, he was like super fascinated about the fitness, and when you look at the fitness and professional athletics, and when you look at that data, like there's so much there. And so he kind of beginning to run with that. And over the past two years we've seen our devices quickly being adopted by really well known professional sports teams, athletes, etc. And so yeah, you see this like very, very ... I mean it's very broad. I mean, a lot of people that we ... when we have conversations internally about who are our core avatars? It's hard for us.
With personas, right? That's a very similar conversation we have, right? So, things like, okay, are we talking professional athletes? Are you targeting folks in the military? Are you targeting folks in anti aging, longevity, wellness? Or you're talking to the soccer moms, or super moms, or super dads? I mean, yeah, it's how do you message something for everyone? If you're doing that, you're doing it for no one. So, how do you dial it in?
Yeah, you got it.
I think that's like an interesting, broader from a business perspective. And I know that a lot of our listeners are probably interested in the startup entrepreneurial story. And I think doing a hardware business is also classically known as a very hard business challenge to do. But I want to touch upon like the three areas that you focused on, which is the specific wavelength, the power, and then the full body. So, I think we talked and covered in the first portion why you chose a wavelength, and why you're so specific on it. It sounds like the other competitors are just not thoughtful about the wavelengths, and you just really looked at the clinical science, and what was the validated wavelengths. And you focused on LED's or light that was specific for those wavelengths, and were clinically proven.
I'm curious to hear about the power, because the sun is massive. If you're just sitting in the sun, that's like millions of joules of energy going onto your skin. I'm curious to hear about the data that exists in terms of what is an effective power dose? What do you see other people doing wrong, and where are you guys doing right, in terms of drilling the right amount of power? And doing a way you can use it for 10 minutes.
I'd probably start with saying, one of the things we wanted to be is very transparent about our power. And making sure that it wasn't just our claims, they were supported by independent third party photo diagnostic labs. That's something that at the time when we first launched. And I still think it's fundamentally not good for the light therapy industry for manufacturers to not be very honest and transparent about what power is delivered from the devices. Because if you don't know that, as a user you don't really know how long to use it. You're sort of taking a stab in the dark. And so, one of the things that we wanted to try to ... we just fundamentally believed, is like being very transparent about that, and making sure that it wasn't just our claims. These are numbers that have been validated and confirmed by third parties.
But maybe more important just for the normal person that's like semi interested in red light therapy. We really wanted to try to optimize for the power delivered, so the total power output. So not rated wattage, right? Most people think of a light source is like how much wattage or power does it consume? We're talking about power delivered from the device. Oftentimes majored in either irradiance, and really irradiance isn't the best metric. It's usually total power output in the form of joules. So, how much is actually hitting our bodies? In essence how much energy in the form of joules is our body receiving during a light therapy treatment? And we really wanted to out of the gates, we wanted to run with a kind of a core 10-minute treatment time. Everyone who has 10 minutes in their day to do a light therapy treatment.
And so we wanted to maximize or optimize our power so you can receive a clinically relevant dose in 10 minutes or less. And so that still to this day is something that, it's front and center in everything we do. We don't want to deliver a low powered device that has to be used for long periods of time, because someone may buy that device and get excited about it, but compliance, they'll quickly fall off. Give it another three minutes and most people aren't going to use something for an hour a day. It's just too time consuming. So yeah, it's definitely something that we wanted to really try to optimize for. And in terms of dosages, it can get really complicated depending on what area of your body you're trying to treat. Let's take an example, like muscle recovery for example. There's a lot of clinical data that supports really high dosages for muscle recovery.
For skin health it's different. You don't need as much energy for overall skin health. So, you do see kind of a lot of variances, but with our devices, because of the power delivered from the actual, or that's emitted from the device, you really only need to use it for 10 minutes just for overall health. If you're trying to treat something very specific, if you've got a problem area, like a balm elbow, like joint pain, etc., you can use it for longer. There there's benefits, but over time there's something called the Bi phasic dose response. Which basically means, it's not ... it's kind of similar to Plato's law-
Diminishing returns or it backfires?
Yeah. There's very much a law of diminishing returns, where there's not negative side effects, it's just you don't get any more benefit, any additional benefits from it.
You touched on one thing that I think makes sense where on the surface skin layer, obviously light's going to hit that, and obviously you probably need less time. And I remember seeing some data that red light will penetrate beyond the dermis, but can it really hit into your stomach or into the muscle layer? I mean, how do you answer that question? I mean, if you're, for example ... I don't know, you're sore in your quads. There's quite a bit of muscle there. Is a red light going to penetrate an inch of muscle to get to the heart of that muscle?
That's the core difference between red and near infrared light. Red Light is red ... visible red light is readily absorbed in the dermis and epidermis of your skin. And that's why it's traditionally studied for skin health, or superficial tissues and general. Near infrared light, same general mechanism of action, but it does have the unique ability to penetrate deeper into your tissues. And that's why when you look at researchers that are studying photo biomodulation for athletic training, or must recovery, etc., near infrared light is almost always used, just because it's pretty well understood that it penetrates deeper. But near infrared light it does have a unique ability to penetrate fairly deep. It'll penetrate through bone, and that's why you see a lot of really, really good clinical data for brain health, especially with near infrared light.
Now, what happens though is not all of the energy does make it through the bones. Like as an example, if I'm shining like the handheld that you go on on my head, only about 15% to 20% of the near infrared energy is actually penetrating through bone. So, in essence, you're going to have probably use it a little bit longer. But it does penetrate deep. Gut health, that's super interesting. I actually suspect that the concept that ... full body photo biomodulation because you get systemic kind of irradiation of your vascular system. That may be very well why you'd get other benefits that are ... where normally they'd be limited to penetration. So again, that's very much a theory. We hope to kind of eventually prove that out over the years. But I do fundamentally think that the aspect of full body light therapy is ideal. And that's why we've designed a devices the way that we have. Is we want someone to be able to start with something small and then build on to it over time, so they can reap the benefits for their whole body in a short period of time.
So yeah, I have a balm elbow, why do I need to shine my entire body? Why can't I just like put the Joovv go on my elbow and leave it on for 10 minutes, and call it a day?
Yeah. Full body light therapy is very new. We were actually one of the first companies to actually commercialize a full body device, so it's very new. We're actually in the process of actually putting together studies right now that ... where you'd have your control arm, which is using a targeted handheld device, and then the other arm of the study would be using full body light therapy. Because we do fundamentally believe these benefits will be showcased in a clinical study. But it hasn't really been demonstrated to date. But having said that, when you think about exposing more of your tissue to these wavelengths of light, you're basically it's that many more cells, that many more tissues, right, that are producing more cellular energy.
And so those systemic benefits, in theory, could be far ... yeah, much more wide ranging. And it's kind of one of the things why we believe ... we've seen such a good response with our customer base, is because most of them are using full body light therapy. And so we do think those systemic benefits are there, but we're really looking forward to kind of proving that out and-
Yeah, it makes sense, right? If you make the entire body more optimized, it's probably going to localize more of the energy, or the repair function in that localized area. I remember in the early part of the conversation, you mentioned something about TBI, which is an interesting area for us actually with ketones, and the potential for ketones for TBI. Here's to understand the data and your excitement about TBI with red light therapy. Obviously, from a mechanism of action, why we think ketones are effective for TBI is that there's that blunt impact. There's that actual trauma center. Those cells are pretty much going to die. But everything around that, the penumbra, there's a dysfunction in glucose uptake. There's catecholamine release, so the production of everything around that can be ... the cells that can be rescued, they have a lower energy state. So, that's why ketones could potentially go bypass that glucose, this function ... uptake this function and jumpstart the energy deficit. Curious, and it sounds like from a red light therapy perspective, obviously you're targeting ATP production as well. So, I'm just wondering, did you imagine there's a similar mechanism of action in terms of supporting ATP production, when there's a TBI?
I think it starts there, right?
Helping you, helping yourselves function and produce more energy like they're supposed to. But also red and near infrared light actually helps ... you definitely have an immune system response in a positive way with these wavelengths of light. It actually helps your immune system transition from something called an M1 phenotype to an M2 phenotype. Which in essence it helps the macrophages that sort of almost like ... like think of Pac Man, that sort of digest the bad stuff. Like from an immune system perspective. That's what you're helping your immune system transition to, is more phagocytic ... I don't know. I'm mispronouncing that. But in essence, you get a positive immune response. And so when it comes to something like TBI or any sort of traumatic brain injury, I think that's probably the core mechanism at play. Is you're helping your body respond to that injury the way it should. And so, on that note though, not only is there a ton of clinical data for TBI and other brain injuries. There's also a lot of clinical data to support helping people with Alzheimer's and dementia function better.
Is this on animal or humans, or a cellular model?
Human tried. Yeah. In fact, we just published a couple of long form articles that are all sourced with a 15 to 20 different peer reviewed studies. And it's really interesting. I mean, I think there's a lot of overlap between ... If you look at Mri Scans of people that suffer from like a concussion or a TBI, and people with Alzheimer's or dementia, you get a lot of the same Beta, like plaque build on. But also, beyond just like injury related, there's also when you just look at healthy patients too, most people experience better overall cognitive functions. So, a better and more improved memory, better reaction times, etc. I think the latter probably speaks more to just your body's ability to tap into that energy that those increased energy levels. Whereas, kind of the injury response is probably more immune system related.
And this is human data and you have people just shoving a red light photo biomodulation device, I guess, in their skull. Just like shinning it into their brain?
Yeah. It's as simple as taking one of our handheld devices, or I'm standing in front of one of our full body devices, but getting up close to it and letting light do its work. And I would argue for some of those benefits, those cognitive benefits near infrared light is probably a better wavelength.
Because it will penetrate the skull.
Yeah. Yeah. Because it has a greater propensity to penetrate through bone. But I mean, that's an area that's super interesting. Hasn't ... Even though there's a fair amount of clinical data, it really hasn't ever been explored from a commercialization standpoint too. So, I think that could be really cool to explore down the road as well.
Yeah, no, I mean a lot of our community is very interested in the TBI use case. Obviously it's just so important in terms of sporting use cases, defense applications and just day to day people get hit in the head and there's not much people can do to prevent damage there. But I think it's been hard to study, right, because it's very hard to ethically control someone getting hit in the head, versus not get hit in the head. And you get the sham intervention versus a real intervention.
So, I think a lot of the studies there have been mostly on animal and cellular work. But if there is a human data there, that'd be very interesting in terms of just understanding the science. But also a lot of our community is very interested in those applications. So, let's talk about that. Moving to more of on the entrepreneurial side of things, classically in silicon valley, people say that hardware companies are really hard to start, and build. Because making devices obviously not cheap. Curious to learn about the business journey as you mentioned, bootstrapping this from the early days to moving out to Southern California.
Yeah, you're right. I mean, a physical product, it's not an easy lift, you know what I mean? In terms of the capital required. It's also, we're technically operating within a regulated environment, right? FDA and more specifically, CDRH does oversee like therapy. I mean, their take, at least right now anyways, it's fairly basic. But we still have to be responsible for that. If they come knocking on our doors, and want to audit our production lines or manufacturing lines and whatnot. So, we still have to presume that that could eventually be the case. And we've got to have our regulatory things ... those i's need to be dotted, those T's need to be crossed for sure.
I've never successfully raised capital myself. I've attempted and had various projects fail. I think as of right now, like we were fortunate not to have had to raise capital. It's been an interesting ride. I think you guys have raised money from some well known VCs. I think maybe some of them would probably argue you could have grown even faster if you would had some gasoline to pour on the fire, maybe in our early years. I think there could be an argument for that. But it's definitely been kind of a careful towing of the line between investing in capital, and sort of back end operations, regular quality, regulatory, etc. While also focusing on how do we effectively commercialize this? And so it's been ... Yeah, I mean, it's month by month, you know what I mean? And trying to make some of those calls. But I think on the ...
]I oversee all of our commercialization efforts. And so I think the fact that we've ... I feel like we've done things the right way. Some of it sort of was intuitive. Some of it was, I think the nature of light therapy and other companies haven't really done a good job of raising awareness for the science of it, like the legitimate science of it. So there's a lot to work with. It just needed some decent business chops behind it to kind of tell that story in a more web 2.0 environment. You know what I mean? But I guess we're at-
So, 2.0, or 3.0, or 4.0 now? I mean, which web are we on?
You have the answer that question better than I could. You in SF. But yeah, I mean, I think we're at it ...Like as a company though, purely from a commercialization standpoint, we don't allocate a large budget towards paid media as an example. So, we're not highly leveraged in that area. When you look at kind of our core channels, it's good partnerships with influential people like Ben Greenfield, like Katie with Wellness Mamma, Dr. Sarah Ballantine, etc. So, I think those have been crucial to our success, those relationships. And they're good people too, and so it's been enjoyable from that standpoint too. And then also like, just like I mentioned this earlier. We're first and foremost kind of a science first company, and so there's a ton of data and science to work with within the red light therapy category, we've just had to bring it to light. And so, just organic SEO, and how we how we rank pretty well just from a content perspective in general that has a super long tail. If you started off kind of on the right foot. And so that's been very beneficial to to our growth as well. So, we've been fortunate to grow at a nice pace where we're not too leveraged from a capital perspective, and we're not highly leveraged with paid media as an example either.
So, it sounds like healthy growth, which is good.
Nice. And I think that's like what most businesses should be like. It's like, okay, can you grow profitably sustainably? You don't want to be this like crash and burn type of business where like you spent hundreds of million dollars on Facebook buying ads, and no one ... and you make $101 million. That's not that interesting. Right?
You mentioned that you were looking at doing some additional science down the line. So, what are clinical areas that you're most excited about? Can you give us a preview around either studies that you're helping support, or products or areas that you're excited about in 2019? I mean, give us a sense of what you have in the pipeline here.
Yeah. So, to answer the latter question, we're acutely focused on making our products, and really light therapy, just more convenient and easier to use. So, they'll always kind of be front and center, is like how can we make this a more enjoyable, convenient, easier experience for the end user, so at the end of the day, they're using consistently? Because that's what we want. If we're getting someone to use light therapy on a consistent basis, we fundamentally believe they're going to experience benefits. Good win for them, good win for us because they'll eventually want to use full body light therapy, which is one of our goals. The former question, the clinical stuff, that's more of a personal passion area for me. Especially kind of this overlap between sort of traditional western healthcare and medicine, and then this very consumer driven wellness category as it pertains to light therapy.
And so that's super interesting. And I think just to get more pragmatic, we've got some work that we're doing right now that will soon be published, related to stem cells. That's not in human stuff right now. That's just ... It'll be interesting nonetheless. So, that will soon be published. We're doing some work with the group in Minneapolis actually right now with our devices. In fact, we just got IRB approval fairly recently. Looking at kind of the brain health categories, specifically Alzheimer's and dementia. That same group serves a lot of ... In fact, the ketogenic diet is one of their core protocols for most of their patients. And so we would like to do more work in that arena. I think it's super interesting, the overlap and the synergy between red light and ketones, ketosis, etc. So, that's kind of an interest category.
Going deeper kind of with TBI and any sort of brain related injury I think is really interesting. And so those are probably the three biggest things that I can think of right now. But it's not ... We could go really broad with clinical work, you know what I mean? But we're probably a little bit more interested in exploring those arenas that haven't really been well studied. Testosterone and infertility, that's one that we have a lot of anecdotal data to work with, but it hasn't really ever been studied out with a lot of really solid peer reviewed, well structured, peer reviewed study. So yeah, that could be something that we explore in more detail.
Yeah. No, I mean I think it's funny because I think that's like definitely the headline catching thing. But it's like, yeah, can we ... It'd be great to see the RCT data on that, because that would be huge if you can actually prove that out.
Yeah, no doubt.
If Scott and Joovv's full mission is realized, what does that future look like? Does that mean ... Is this ... We wake up every single morning, our nightstand has a full body Joovv machine and we just hit on, and that's how we start the day? How do you see this changing culture? How do you see this changing how people live?
I think there's an overarching mission which is just making the cut ... like making people more aware and more cognizant of the impact that light has, light in general has on our overall health. So, that's one. It's very top of funnel, very high level, but that's a big win of ours. If people listening to this can just have a greater appreciation for trying to get more natural light in their day. And really maybe more specifically try to avoid a lot of excess blue light at night, and kind of beginning to understand the health consequences of that. That's a huge win for us. And then two, making full body light therapy accessible to everyone. That's our ... I mean, that's a massive goal. I mean, it's a huge undertaking, but we fundamentally believe in full body light therapy. And so we would envision ... I guess, just to kind of come full circle in that, everyone that wakes up kind of understands, or makes it one of their goals, that they're getting more natural light on a daily basis.
And then, how do we get there? So, right now the devices are not the ... it's super cheap. I imagine it's hard to make the devices to the quality that you're making it. What are the challenges there? What are the technical step ups so we can really fulfill the vision of where, yeah, this could be everywhere?
It's an investment. We recently launched a handheld device at a much lower price point. But even at $295 for this handheld device, it's really ... it has some really interesting tech in the sense that it's completely wireless and rechargeable. It delivers the same power as large devices. But let's be honest, I mean, $295 is still like ... it's still a decent price point for most people. So, I think that will be an issue that we always are trying to solve for at the end of the day. You can't be all things to all people either, right? I mean, we still fundamentally believe that in order for people to be compliant with light therapy, your devices have to deliver a certain amount of power, which is more expensive than manufacturing a super cheap device. And so we'll always have the tow that line.
But I do think kind of our core strategy of this modular base light therapy, where someone could start out with a smaller device today, and if they're using it consistency and like the benefits, they can buy another one. And similar to Lego blocks, they connect physically together but they also connect electronically together. Where one device controls the whole system. And so that concept of kind of starting small, but being able to build onto your system over time, so over the ... Theoretical, over the course of five years you could end up with a really cool full body system. But you don't have to start there on day one.
Going a little bit Sci-Fi here. I mean, could you imagine a universe where all the normal light bulbs that we have are Joovv light bulbs, and then just like modulates its temperature, its warmth through the day. Is that something that would make sense, or is that just too Sci-Fi at this point?
You see someone, like a big company like Philips, and they're making a business out of hue lighting? I mean, I think they kind of touched on this aspect of being able to like control. I don't think they've really played that out, in terms of what that actually means and helping to kind of bridge the gap between, this is cool, I can kind of control the colors of my light bulb. They're like, actually there's a lot of health benefits and ramifications there by doing that. So, that could be interesting. It's not on the immediate horizon to really to really go deep there. But theoretically, yeah, I mean ideally everyone in the morning is like, is turning on some ... is using the right light source with the right wavelengths in the morning, and in the evening they're kind of doing the same thing. If we can get to a point where people kind of understand that concept in the same way that they understand, hey, I'm not ... If I want to eat a healthy diet, I'm not going to be loading myself with a bunch of carbohydrates at night.
It's the same sort of parallel there. There's a lot of parallels between the two. And so, I mean, that requires ... it's a fair amount of market development efforts, and education around that. Getting people to appreciate it and understand light and different wavelengths. I mean, I think in our young history as a company, we're doing a halfway decent job, but like there's a lot of work to be done though, for sure.
100%. No, I think, very excited to do this podcast and to follow the journey. So, what do our listeners find out more? You're a J-O-O-V-V.com.
What are the platforms to find you and learn more? And what's best place to get started?
Go to our website, joovv.com. It's a play on rejuvenate, so it was a short.com that was actually still available. We actually bought it, so it's Joovv J-O-O-V-V so two O's two V's .com. I think most of your audience is really going to appreciate the learn sort of section of our website. That's loaded with really, I like to think, really well done educational pieces that are all well researched. If you want to go deep on the science, and sort of the wide variety of benefits that you can experience from red light therapy. I'd head there first. But if you just kind of want to get a sense for what people are saying about our products, or just like therapy in general. I kind of think that the reviews section on our website is kind of cool. I don't know, there's probably like 600 or 700 reviews now that are ... They're real reviews. They're not ones that we just we ... We don't just publish the good ones, and we've published the bad ones too.
But that's super interesting because you just get to hear what people have to say about their experience with light therapy, and it's super wide ranging. It's really quite interesting and really, really kind of impactful. So, if you just want to kind of take that angle, that's cool. But yeah, our website is great. And then we're pretty active on social, especially Instagram. So, we're at Joovv Social is our handle across all the channels, but especially Instagram is probably our social channel that's most active.
Cool. All right, Scott, thanks so much for jumping on the programming. It was great to talk.
Awesome. Yeah, no, I appreciate you having me on.
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