Chinese Immigrant Dr. Wenyuan Shi Revolutionizes Dentistry in America

Dr. Wenyuan Shi was born in Hangzhou, China and had an interesting life experience during the Chinese “Culture Revolution” as a member of the Little Red Guard. He came to the United States in 1985 to earn a PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is no stranger to the complex U.S. immigration system and, while he has finally received citizenship, he keeps up to date with laws and policies because he knows how much they affect his students, employees, and the future of American innovation.

Dr. Shi is currently serving as the Chair of the Section of Oral Biology at UCLA School of Dentistry and the Doctoral Advisor for the Oral Biology PhD Program at UCLA. He is also the coauthor of over 200 scientific articles and the co-inventor of 45 patents. One of the technologies he developed in 2008 is a herbal lollipop that can treat tooth decay in children. Dr. Shi describes himself as “an interesting example of the American Dream.” In more recent years, he’s worked with dozens of foreign-born students and researchers to patent a series of inventions that aim to more effectively kill bacteria in the mouth, preventing dental problems like gum infections and tooth decay before they start. “I truly believe,” Dr. Shi says, “we could revolutionize the way dentistry is treated in this country.”

He isn’t alone in exhibiting such confidence about his work. C3 Jian, a startup Dr. Shi created to commercialize his inventions, has raised more than $120 million from dental insurers and government sources since its founding in 2007. The firm also gained approval from the Food and Drug Administration to test an anti-cavity drug in humans, and the company is hiring rapidly with the majority of the employees being native-born Americans.

Dr. Shi is now an American citizen, but it took him over 15 years to realize this dream. He has also experienced frustrations with the immigration system at his company. At times, he has wished to employ highly skilled immigrant students, but has been unable to get them the proper visa status.


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