Like many babies, the idea for Denali BioTechnologies Inc. was conceived on a vacation. Our CEO, Dr. Maureen McKenzie, was teaching at the College of Pharmacy at Rutgers University when she took a spontaneous trip to Alaska to rejuvenate after a hectic year.
Because she had taught classes on plant-derived pharmaceuticals, Dr. McKenzie was familiar with the health-giving properties of wild fruits and greens. While exploring the Alaska wilderness, she began to notice leaf and flower shapes that were similar to those of well-known medicinal plants throughout the world. She wondered if they had similar properties.
Dr. McKenzie sought out old-timers, homesteaders, and Native people in the small Alaska communities she visited. She asked them about the plants she had noticed and they shared with her how the various botanicals were traditionally used. Those conversations would change her life.
Returning home to New Jersey, Dr. McKenzie began to research Alaska plants with more than a little excitement. Her research uncovered one particularly interesting scientific paper, which identified a unique phytonutrient related to aspirin and produced by an edible Alaska medicinal plant that had never before been seen in nature. Its presence was attributed to an enzyme found only in psychrophilic (cold-loving) plants.
That was when Dr. McKenzie had an epiphany. She realized that the harsh growing conditions of Alaska created unique — and totally untapped — compounds that could profoundly benefit human health.
Epiphanies are usually accompanied by sweeping changes, and this one was no exception. Dr. McKenzie immediately quit her job, moved to Alaska, and began the fledgling research companies that eventually coalesced to become Denali BioTechnologies, Inc.
Starting with staple foods that sustained the Native people and struggling explorers and homesteaders in the unforgiving environment of the Northern wilderness for thousands of years — berries, rose hips, and meadow dandelions — Dr. McKenzie began the detailed analytical research that led to the Aurora line of products offered by Denali. Today, we remain the only company dedicated to the development of time-honored natural ingredients from Alaska and the surrounding boreal regions.