Leaning on a fence after graduating from high school in 1969, Dennis Gierhart looked up at the sky. Neil Armstrong had just landed on the moon – and happened to be from a town 2 miles away from Gierhart’s hometown of Lima, Ohio.
“I thought if somebody from just over the field over there is walking on the moon right now, you can do almost anything.”
Being drawn to science since his days at Shawnee High School, he went on to earn his PhD from Cornell University after earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degrees at Ohio State University. A self-proclaimed “nerd,” Gierhart, always knew he wanted to make a difference in the world but wasn’t sure how.
“I just knew I wanted to help people. I thought, ‘Okay, I’m either going to feed the world using genetic techniques or cure cancer.’”
With this calling, Gierhart got his first job in science and worked for three years on biotechnology projects. This is where he first heard of something called zeaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that can help with a multitude of health issues. After years of research, Gierhart started looking for natural sources of zeaxanthin around the world. His efforts were mostly in vain, as 99% of his findings were not the antioxidant.
After about a year’s worth of work in his lab, he finally found a natural source that made pure, natural zeaxanthin. One source was very hard to grow in his lab and the other Gierhart retrieved from an artesian well– about two or three hundred yards from his house.
“My gosh, it was in my backyard all along.”
Years later, Gierhart co-founded ZeaVision (now EyePromise) in 2001. Gierhart is passionate about his company being people focused. He remembers a phone call he received in the early days of his company from a customer that helped fuel this passion.
“I picked up the phone and she started raving about how her vision improved and she was reading and knitting again. I remember that moment. When she said that, I was like, ‘Oh, this is really making a difference in people’s lives.’ This is the testimonial where I knew this is really making a difference.”
Gierhart is fiercely dedicated to improving the quality of his ingredients and how they are manufactured.
“There’s a lot of snake oil and unqualified operations in this business. So that (improving ingredient quality), along with continuing to show the benefits, are the two ways we’re different.”
After 18 years at EyePromise, Gierhart is proud to say his company has helped thousands of people mitigate the effects of age-related eye health issues, as well as helping optometrists and ophthalmologists better serve their patients.
Along with helping thousands improve their eye health, Gierhart also helped develop a skin care company that uses zeaxanthin-based ingredients. He even worked with the University of Georgia to learn how zeaxanthin affects reaction time in the brain for athletes.
For the future, Gierhart thinks he’ll never truly retire and will forever be interested and passionate about eye health and the benefits of zeaxanthin.