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Delta Dental Invests in Biotechnologies That May Change Oral Health

By Portage County Business Council

Someday we may be able to prevent cavities by simply rinsing our mouth with a solution that kills the bacteria that cause cavities — and if that happens, we’ll have Delta Dental and Dr. Wenyuan Shi, Chairman of Oral Biology at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Dentistry, as well as Professor of Microbiology at the UCLA School of Medicine, to thank.

According to Dr. Frederick Eichmiller, Vice President and Science Officer at Delta Dental of Wisconsin in Stevens Point, “In 2006, we became aware of a promising biotechnology opportunity that came from UCLA and Dr. Shi — a technology that could prevent cavities by basically killing the primary bacteria that causes cavities.” He continues, “Scientists have tried for years to develop such a technology but they weren’t effective. Dr. Shi’s idea had promise but his NIH funding only covered his lab research and demos. He didn’t have funding to carry him through the product development stages, so we provided the initial funding to set up C3 Jian (C3).”

The product development investment structure is itself unique. Rather than relying on a venture capitalist, Delta Dental of Wisconsin combined their resources and expertise with Delta Dental companies in Virginia and Michigan as well. This combination not only alleviates the pressure of venture capitalist investment structures, it allows the three companies to share the risk and the investment — and paves the way for greater flexibility and opportunity.

“Beyond the initial investment, we helped by bringing in experts who understand biotechnology product development, how to hire the right people and how to get FDA approval,” he explains. “We’ve taken the idea through the drug development stage and have completed all of the pre-studies. We are now in Phase One of the human trials that can lead to FDA approval.” If all goes well, the end product will be a mouth rinse that kills the one type of bacteria that is primary cause of tooth decay.

Delta Dental of Wisconsin is funding other clinical trials and research projects around the country — “Wherever there’s an area that needs help and is related to oral health,” adds Eichmiller. “The federal government is doing what it can to help with these projects, but they don’t necessarily have enough money to fund all of these projects. There are several clinical trials that we feel show promise and we’re helping them complete their work.” He notes, “There was one research project in South Dakota that was near the end of its clinical trial period and it was running out of funding for its last six to twelve months. It would have been a shame to not complete the project and we really wanted to see the results, so we got several companies together and provided the funding they needed to complete the project.”

“We’re known as a dental benefits company — and that is a critical part of who we are. But to really make an impact on oral health, we need to do what we can to shape what oral health looks like — and that’s through technology and product development, not just benefits,” concludes Eichmiller.

About C3 Jian

Founded in 2005, C3 Jian, Inc (“C3”) is a clinical-stage biotechnology company based in Los Angeles, California. The Company’s technologies were pioneered in the laboratories of Dr. Wenyuan Shi, Chairman of Oral Biology at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Dentistry, as well as Professor of Microbiology at the UCLA School of Medicine. We are currently developing therapeutic and diagnostic products to improve oral health.

About Delta Dental
Since 1954, Delta Dental has been working to improve oral health and hygiene by emphasizing preventative care, because we believe that everyone deserves to enjoy a healthy smile.

Delta Dental Plans Association is a not-for-profit organization with some for-profit affiliates as member companies. Through our 39 independent member companies, we offer national dental coverage – administering programs and reporting systems that provide employees and individuals with quality, cost-effective dental benefits and superior customer service.

As America’s largest and most trusted dental benefits carrier, we cover more Americans than any other dental benefits provider – and strive daily to make dental coverage more accessible and affordable to a wide variety of employers, groups and individuals.