How Genexa Is Leading The Clean Medicine Revolution And Getting Us To ‘Ditch The Dirty’

As a parent, I’m always thinking of my six year old son and how to keep him healthy and safe. I was surprised to hear of the idea of “clean medicine” – and learn more about how common medications oftentimes contain ingredients which could be harmful.

Genexa is a “clean medicine” company that is on a mission to get us to “Ditch the Dirty.” I caught up with cofounders David Johnson and Max Spielberg to find out more.

Afdhel Aziz: Max, David, welcome. Please tell us how the two of you came to start Genexa?

David Johnson: I grew up in a “nuts and seeds” type of household. My parents, both chiropractors, were particularly cognizant of everything health related. They always tried to choose natural and organic foods. In having my own kids now, I want to raise them similarly, using the cleanest ingredients whenever possible.

Max Spielberg: I have dealt with allergies my entire life. Only a few years ago I discovered that many of the OTC medicines we all know and use routinely, are, surprisingly, full of common allergens. I experienced adverse reactions from some of these allergens, one of which was even in my allergy medicines! David and I are longtime friends and when we both had kids, we became increasingly frustrated by the fever reducers or cough medicines on shelves that were full of synthetic and artificial ingredients. The medicines we trusted to make our kids feel better were actually full of artificial additives, frequently including synthetic dyes, flavorings, as well as common allergens. 

Johnson: We decided we had to do something about this. With the rise of organic, clean label products in other industries (food, beauty, personal care and cleaning products), we thought the pharmaceutical industry – the industry making products intended to heal people – should have been at the forefront but was instead lagging behind. We got to work on creating a new kind of pharma company and found a way to make medicine with the same ingredients people need, but without the artificial ones they don’t. We launched Genexa in 2017 after two years of research, development and fundraising, and tremendous partners around us, namely Brian Perkins, former Worldwide Chairman, Consumer Pharmaceuticals & Nutritional’s at Johnson & Johnson. We’re 3 years in and have so much in store for the next few years!

Aziz: Thank you for sharing that. How would you articulate the purpose and the mission of the company?

Johnson: Genexa is on a mission to revolutionize the medicine aisle by making what we think of as real medicine clean. That means making products that have the same active ingredient – the ingredient that helps you feel better – but removing all of the artificial inactive ingredients. We replace the common allergens, synthetic dyes and artificial sweeteners with wholesome ingredients. For flavoring, we use organic blueberries instead of high fructose corn syrup. For coloring, we use

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Time for the "Retro Medicine" Revolution

OK so this is a term that I've made up! You won't have heard of it before, because this is the first time it's ever been mentioned. So I know that even though you are a smart, intelligent, thinking man or woman it's OK for me to teach you what I mean by "Retro Medicine".

For 13 years I've practiced what most people might say is "traditional" medicine, having initially qualified as a traditional Chinese acupuncturist. That's really an umbrella term for several modalities of treatment – needling (of course), acupressure massage, cupping, moxibustion, traditional Chinese dietary advice, lifestyle advice, relaxation techniques, exercise and body movement techniques. Over the years I've added to my training and qualifications to include Colon Hydrotherapy and Nutritional Therapy in my therapeutic portfolio, or tool bag. These both have ancient traditional roots too, and to appreciate their provenance think Hippocates as the "Father of Modern Medicine" who is quoted as famously saying "Let Food be Thy Medicine"; and think the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Egyptian hieroglyphics that depict and include instructions for inner cleansing of the bowel.

Recently I've been questioning whether or not what I do is truly "traditional". Sure my therapies have traditional roots, but I certainly don't practice any of them exactly as in ancient times. For example, long-necked gourds have been replaced by modern plastic disposable tubing and specula for colonics; I use modern turned stainless steel acupuncture needles; and my nutritional therapy practice, especially, is influenced hugely by modern clinical research. The recognition that what I do is essentially very modern, involving up to date practices but without losing their ancient essences and maintaining their traditional benefits, has led to my current reflections. Reflections that make me ask what is it that I really do? What is the thread that connects the various parts of my therapeutic practice? Simply, what is my "thing"?

I realise that I don't want to turn back the hands of time. I don't want to go back to ancient ways, and I don't encourage others to do so either. But also, I can't in good conscience agree with much of our modern western medical practices.

I'm not an enemy of modern medicine. There have been some amazing medical advances that deserve and have my respect. But … and there's always a "BUT" … there is so much about modern medicine, particularly the use of pharmaceuticals, that is terribly damaging. I challenge you to name a drug that does not come with a host of side effects – some mild, some terribly severe, with long lasting consequences far worse than the condition they aim to treat. Am I being over dramatic here? I don't think so. There are so many examples littering the brief history of pharmaceutical intervention it's shocking. Aspirin, once considered to be a benign, even safe, pain killer is now known to cause serious gastro-intestinal problems; hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was originally considered to be the wonder drug that women could take …

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