Will Block has the eccentric air of a seer. Sitting in his second-story corner office, with a hazy, distant view of the mountains, his blue eyes dance electric when talking about the future. His wispy white hair seems to stand on end.
"Not only will the rate of knowledge accelerate rapidly in many disciplines, but applications of that knowledge will accelerate in areas of health," he says. "This is a stepping stone. The next level will be adult stem cells, gene engineering, and the final application will be getting into the body and building new versions of it - nanomedicine."
The 68-year-old Zephyr Cove resident is the founder, chief executive officer and majority owner of Life Enhancement Products Inc. Over the summer, he and a half-dozen employees relocated the 18-year-old company from what he called the "goon squads" of California regulation to the "healthier business climate" of Northern Nevada. More specifically, they moved into a 20,000-square-foot building in the Carson Valley Business Park in Minden.
Block's office is cluttered with books: market research manuals, art and architecture collations, and volumes upon volumes of scientific literature. Salvador Dali's "Apotheosis of Homer" hangs in the front lobby of the building.
"Politicians don't like the marketplace," he says. "These wise bureaucrats think they have a monopoly on truth."
Block believes bureaucrats get in the way of ideas. With a background in computers, business, science and theater (he's worked as a film director/producer), he is a man of ideas, though sometimes his ideas seem more science fiction than reality.
For example, he believes communication devices such as cell phones will one day be embedded in human beings, "handshaking the nervous system."
"Ultimately, humans will merge with machines," he says. "I'm avidly interested in the future. It's a matter of positioning."
Bringing innovations to the marketplace, he says, requires "a huge orchestra of talent."
"I think of myself as a hacker, a good problem-solver," he says.
Life Enhancement Products, Block's "stepping stone," manufactures and markets nutritional supplements by mail order, web sales, private labels, distributorships and affiliate programs.
The company was the first to market DHEA, pregnenolone, 5-HTP, vinpocetine, mastic gum, galantamine and MHCP, along with high-potency formulations, and it enjoys a long association with Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, two Nevada residents considered pioneers in the field of life extension supplementation.
This year, Block expects to exceed $6 million in sales.
"Our company is about people enhancing their lives, not only in terms of health, but in the way that they feel, their levels of productivity, and how they're able to use their minds," he says. "Everything we do is science-based. We don't make things up. We study, scrutinize and challenge the literature. We find what is in food that makes you healthier. We stylize and concentrate the good things in food."
Putting it another way, Block argues that to procure the same level of nutrients out of whole foods, versus concentrated solutions, a person would need to consume 25,000 calories a day. He uses the example of salmon, widely known for its healthy properties.
"But the dosage has to be right. If you eat 10 pounds of salmon a day, you're going to be in trouble," he says. "That's only one argument for nutritional supplements being necessary to get the most out of life. We see ourselves among the elite of many markets and distributors."
Since arriving in Nevada, Life Enhancements has hired upwards of 16 workers for manufacturing (raw materials, capsule filling, labeling), customer service, and shipping and receiving.
Mark Beardslee, vice president of operations, says the company offers 134 different supplements and liquid products containing vitamins, amino acids, herbals, botanicals, and, in some food products, sugar, salt and flour. The company fills about 100 individual orders a day and ships about six pallets a week to wholesale clients.
"We do not diagnose, cure or treat anything," Beardslee says of FDA requirements.
Rather, Life Enhancement products can be described as "helping to maintain" a variety of health factors.
The company recently broke into the pet health market with dog vitamins and eye drops.
"The pet industry is a $20 billion market," Beardslee says. "To get a tenth of that, to get a tenth of a tenth of that, would make us happy."
Life Enchantments appears to be in Nevada for the long haul. Instead of leasing, the company purchased the building in Johnson Lane, and Block believes the new facility will serve as a foundation for future growth.
"I'm traveling to Poland next week. It's experienced the largest growth of any country - 9 percent," he says. "We sell our products in more than 100 countries. Some are more difficult. There is an ever-increasing amount of bureaucracy wherever you go."
Fortunately, Block has a built-in marketing strategy. For 17 years, he's published, and help write, a monthly magazine called "Life Enhancement." He's optimistic about increasing readership and sales in general.
"One can reasonably predict that in the future, a person will be able to live a very, very long time," he says.
For more information about the company, visit www.life-enhancement.com.