Catching Up with Founder Gordon Chang: 30 Years of Omega Alpha® Pharmaceuticals
Tuesday, March 22, 2022
In 1992, dressage rider Cynthia Ishoy was representing Canada at the Barcelona Olympics, Celine Dion was at the top of the music charts, Brian Mulroney was still Prime Minister, and a young medical engineer in Ontario named Gordon Chang was formulating and concentrating natural herbal supplements for a unique new company that would prove to be in the right place at the right time, Omega Alpha® Pharmaceuticals.
Chang had completed his post-doctoral work and had started a career in human-grade, private label pharmaceuticals when he saw how interest in natural products was “taking off” in health and wellness communities. “I said to myself look; you’ve got the science background. You know what you’re talking about, and how to go through the steps to identify the possibilities in a product.” He started the company on the human side, offering all-natural products to support joint, digestive, respiratory, and immune system health.
“Horses were next.” Omega Alpha® had commercially established itself for a decade when a tack supplier named John McCloud walked in the door. “Gordon, he asked, “would these products work for horses?” I said, “I don’t see why not. Horses are mammals like you and me. All we had to do was offer doses at levels to show a benefit. We started with joint supplements and had great success! Back then, all people wanted to hear was glucosamine, chondroitin, or MSM. That was important but nothing was offering an anti-inflammatory effect. Every joint that has suffered damage has inflammation. You have to address inflammation.”
Chang knew of herbal anti-inflammatories that he could add. “We did, and horse owners said the difference was night and day. So, I asked John what else goes wrong in the horse world, and he said, everything!”
More Omega Alpha® products, for horses and pets, followed. “Horse owners kept asking if this could be used on their dog or cat. The light bulb went off that every person with a horse usually has dogs and cats. That’s why we launched the pet line.”
Boiling It Down
Looking back on 30 years of creating vegan natural products, free from gluten, wheat, dairy, egg, soy and sugar, in powder or liquid formulas is a reminder that Omega Alpha® started with human-grade materials for humans and has never veered from using the same high quality raw materials for animal supplements.
Meeting a human-grade standard makes Omega Alpha’s production unique, Chang said. “We use the same equipment. Maintain the same standards.” One resource is HPLC (high pressure liquid chromatography), a powerful machine used in analytical chemistry to separate, identify and quantify each component in a mixture.
Omega Alpha® can assure detection of trace materials to minute levels, which has built confidence in consumers who are competitive equestrians. “We check our herbs. Nothing falls through any check list for banned substances.”
Through liquid extraction, the efficacy of an herb or herbal formula can be concentrated and controlled. “It’s like brewing coffee. If I give you grounds to chew on, you’ll never get that caffeine hit! You won’t digest it the same way as brewing (extracting) the caffeine.”
“The advantage of liquid extracts is getting a concentrate to a level high enough to be effective. We choose herbs based on what we know they can do. Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which we use in a couple of products. We also know other herbs that work like that, which is why we make formulations as opposed to single products, to try and maximize all the beneficial effects.”
Chang uses an analogy of hauling resources up a mountain: having more than one path delivers things faster. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory; so are arnica and milk thistle. “Don’t let a ‘landslide’ block a path. Have more than one path for the job.”
The Next 30 Years
Chang is still CEO while acknowledging how the growth behind the Omega Alpha® tenet, effective supplements through science, has - like a developing dressage horse -- required fresh flocking of its metaphoric saddle. “I can’t do it all. There is a talented team for that. But I suppose,” the scientist and entrepreneur laughed, “If I think there is a light bulb in the office that needs changing, I’ll still go ahead and change it!.”
On a more contemplative note, “It’s been satisfying to see where we’ve come from and where we are now. Omega Alpha is in almost every facet of healthcare and ten years from now, I hope we’ll be even bigger in the different export markets.”
“A horse is an expensive investment. If you’re going to supplement an investment, you want something that works. That has separated Omega Alpha from the rest.”
Omega Alpha® is a Canadian-based company offering all-natural products to support optimum health in horses (as well as humans) with a division, Omega Alpha® (Equine) USA, in Florida. Experience the benefits in improving and maintaining respiratory, digestive, joint, hormonal and immune system health, detoxification, muscle rehabilitation and performance at www.OmegaAlpha.com.