A Skeptical Look at the Photon Genius and Its Marketing

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
December 11, 2018

The Photon-Genius, marketed by a company called the Skilling Institute, is an infrared sauna device that has been claimed to be effective against the gamut of disease. The company also offers a desktop device called the Photon Genie. According to the company’s main Web site:

The Skilling Institute represents over 50 years of expertise in electromedicine and is considered the world leader for results oriented electromedicine alternative health therapy. Ed Skilling, an electronics engineer and inventor, entered the field of electromedicine in the late 1950’s and is considered the leading expert in electromedicine and is responsible for hundreds of inventions over this time. His latest leading edge technologies include the Upgraded Photon Genie and the Photon-Genius. Skilling Institute works with leading edge health practitioners and healers from all around the world and specializes in helping individuals heal from the most serious health diagnoses including cancer and other life threatening conditions [1].

This article explains why I am skeptical of these devices.

Background History

Ed Skilling (1918-2010) was an electrical engineer who worked for aerospace engineering from 1950 through 1983. The biographical sketch on the Ed Skilling Institute of Technology Web site states that the death of Skilling’s daughter in 1983 turned his interest toward the use of electricity for health and led him to build electronic devises [2]. Unfortunately, the devices he built were based on the notions of Raymond Royal Rife, a prominent quack who claimed that diseases could be cured with devices that provided proper “vibrations” to the body [3]. One such device was the Photon Genie, which the Ed Skilling Institute of Technology Web site described this way in 2003:

The Photon Genie is the latest achievement in vibration cell-energy technology. . . . by combining an advanced electro-lymphatic cell-enhancing technology with broad-spectrum amplified and enhanced broadcasted harmonic frequencies. Its life-nourishing photobiotic energy is effectively delivered by both an ionized Noble Gas energy-field and deeply penetrating radionic waves. The result is an innovative and highly effective delivery of an extremely broad band of light-and-sound harmonics and frequencies to: re-establish the ideal frequency and energy state of cells in the body; dramatically move the lymph system; destroy pathogens in the body; detoxify the body; and oxygenate the body [4].

The database of the Arizona Department of Corporations indicates that “Skilling Institute” has been used as a trade name since 1998. The record does not indicate who first used it or whether or not the “Ed Skilling Institute of Technology” was a separate company or merely a variation in the current company name.

Warren J. Starnes, who had met and worked with Skilling during the 1990s, registered The Skilling Institute as a limited liability corporation in 2009 and served as its sole director until his death in April 2017. His sons now run the business. Starnes developed the Photon-Genius, which has been sold since 2010. The Institute also offers an “upgraded” model of the Photon Genie. The address identified by the Skilling Institute is a UPS drop box in Phoenix, Arizona. The company also uses an office in Tempe to demonstrate the Photon-Genius device.

Dubious Claims
The Photon Genie is a desktop device that can be purchased for $2,995 or leased for about $125 /month. A flier for the device claims that it will (a) re-establish the ideal vibrational frequencies and harmonic energy states of each individual cell in the body, (b) devitalize pathogens in the systems of the body (yeast, fungus, mold, viruses, bacteria, parasites, etc.), stopping infections, and reversing disease processes, (c) break-up blockages and barrier tissues through re-polarizing cells and molecules; dissolving lumps, clots and mineral deposits, and (d) detoxify the body by moving and balancing the lymphatic, circulatory and other fluid systems of the body through all the channels (blood vessels, lymph, capillaries) for more efficient transport of nutrition, vital energy and infinite intelligence throughout the cells of the body, brain and nervous system [5].

The Photon-Genius, which works by generating infrared light, is 72 inches high, 56 inches wide, and 29 inches deep. It can be purchased for $24,700 plus shipping or leased by practitioners for about $1,000 per month. A YouTube video posted in 2010 claims that the device halted the progression of multiple myeloma by “oxygenating the cells.” The Photon-Genius brochure posted to the Skilling Institute Web site from 2010 through 2016 states:

The Photon Genius benefits include: Burns calories and regulates weight, burning up to 700 calories per session!; relieves tension, stress and fatigue; renews immune system health; normalizes cholesterol; lowers blood pressure; relieves pain, muscle tension and fatigue; improves skin tone and eliminates acne; improves cardiovascular conditioning and allows cardiovascular workout for those who might not otherwise be able to exercise (those in wheelchairs); decreases joint stiffness, edema and other; inflammatory conditions; stimulates cellular and enzyme activity; improves flow within the lymphatic system; increases circulation and nourishes damaged tissue; clears cellulite by breaking down the fat and waste stored in pockets below the skin; promotes the adhesion and osmosis of water molecules across the cellular membrane; decreases the density of uric acid; reduces the effects of injuries; encourages lymphatic drainage; encourages metabolic rate; reduces pathogenic bacteria, fungus and parasites; prevents premature aging; and encourages weight loss by increasing metabolism and body temperature.

The Photon-Genius is beneficial for: skin problems; stomach problems; earache; colds, etc.; excess acid; heartburn; hemorrhoids; diabetes; indigestion; asthma; inflammation and swelling; gout; ulcers—gastric and duodenal; abnormal nerve function; bronchitis; arthritis; high blood pressure; insomnia; neuralgia; rheumatism; your general condition and health [6].

Here are my comments on other claims made for the Photon-Genius by the Skilling Institute Web site since 2010 [7].

Claim Comment
The Photon-Genius is the first and only Instrument in the world utilizing the historic Genius of Ed Skilling with the sophisticated, proprietary circuitry to generate the Genius dynamics of Photon-Genetic Energy, Life-force Energy Transmission, Harmonic Frequency Tube Technology, and Harmonic Infrared Energy Transmission to communicate with all the cells of the body to balance and enliven all systems and organs of the body. “Life force energy” is not a scientific concept. Nothing external can “balance all systems and organs of the body.””Enlivening” is not a scientific concept.
The Photon-Genius offers a safe and effective therapy alternative to drugs, surgery, chemo, or radiation without negative side effects. As far as I know, no study has ever compared the safety or effectiveness of Photon Genius to any standard method. Testing such a statement would require tens of thousands of controlled studies.
Photon-Genius Mega Energy Transmissions alleviate pain, detoxify the body; strengthen cardiovascular system; devitalize and clear pathogens; fungus, mold, bacteria, germs, etc.; regenerate tissue & bone; improve symptoms of most diseases; reflow nerve pathways; empower the body’s immune system; and promote longevity; and promote weight loss (30 minute session burns over 700 calories). As far as I know, no study has ever tested the effectiveness of Photon Genius against any of these problems. Such testing would require tens of thousands of controlled studies.
Using the Photon-Genius produces potent antioxidants, neurotransmitters and artery wall relaxers. The Photon-Genius helps regulate muscle tone of the arteries and prevents arteriosclerosis and is anti-inflammatory preventing injury to vessel walls and normalizing blood pressure in the process. There is no evidence or reason to believe that exposure to infrared light can do any of these things.
Using the Photon-Genius produces powerful brain cell protectors, neurotransmitters, memory and learning enhancers (transmitting harmonic, balanced chemical messages in the brain. There is no evidence or reason to believe that exposure to infrared light can do any of these things.
The Photon-Genius transmits, imprints, and reminds the human body at the cellular level of the essential creative process of perpetual enlivening energy that results in more natural and empowered regenerative processes throughout the body. There is no reason to believe that any such processes can be quantified and measured.
The Photon-Genius is a wonderfully safe and easy-to-use dynamic means of achieving ever-accelerating levels of health, wellness and more efficient, natural regeneration and rejuvenation. The Photon-Genius technologies provide “noticeable” and “comprehensive” health benefits to make your body the best it can be. There is no evidence or reason to believe that exposure to infrared light can do any of these things.

The site also offers a 56-page booklet that makes more claims based on the device’s supposed ability to provide healing energy, increase nitrous oxide production in the body, boost the immune system, enable weight loss, and cause detoxification. It is also filled with pseudoscientific claims, such as “The frequency harmonics of the Skilling Instruments have been shown to improve the strength of healthy cell membranes, preventing pathogen invasion in the first place.” [8]

In 2011, the Skilling issued a press release which stated that, “The Photon-Genius has been used by medical doctors and health care practitioners as a dynamic alternative cancer therapy and Lyme disease treatment, as well as to improve quality of life issues in a wide variety of other serious conditions.” [9]

Since 2015, the Photon-Genius has also been marketed under the name “Super Sauna,” which is promoted through a separate Web site (supersauna.com). Among other things, this site claims that infrared rays can improve the health of the heart by stimulating blood flow; reach deep into your muscles to produce long-lasing pain relief; flush out toxins; cause weight loss; reduce skin wrinkles; and much more.

The most blatant sales pitch I have found appears in a video narrated by chiropractor Brian Brown of the 360 Health Care Clinic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The video, which was posted to YouTube in 2013 but still appears on the clinic Web site, claims:

The king of electromedicine, the Photon Genius, is a dynamic energy sauna that provides direct and targeted harmonic infrared energy that includes full spectrum light, more than any infrared sauna in the world. This combination helps the body produce more nitric oxide, the “miracle molecule,” which helps preserve the elasticity of all the vessels in the body. because is a signaling molecule that tells all the blood vessels to increase the width, or dilate. This has significant implications because optimal blood circulation is a key factor in virtually all health issues, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, obesity, arthritis, anti-aging, and more. The photon devices are designed to rid the body of microbes, but they also do many things, like boosting the immune system and stimulating weak organs. The photon devices are required when the patient has dangerous tumors because they assist the body’s immune system in getting rid of the root cause of the tumors so that they will go away and not come back [10].

It is possible that heat produced by the Photon-Genius or Super Sauna could have some temporary effects that include sweating and muscle relaxation. But there is no scientific evidence or logical reason to believe that Photon Genius can do anything else mentioned above.

Companies that are involved in the production and distribution of medical devices intended for commercial distribution in the United States are supposed to register with the FDA. However, I could find no listing for the company or devices in the FDA’s Establishment Registration & Device Listing database.

FDA Action

In 2009, the Skilling Institute operated the Web site swinefluadvisor.com, which stated:

The Skilling Institute is represented by the most advanced doctors, health practitioners, and gifted healers in 41 countries and has been #1 worldwide in the field of electro-medicine for the past 48 years. These doctors worldwide recommend the SKILLING INSTITUTE’s most advanced electromedicine technology, the Photon Genie, that has proven effective for most serious and degenerative conditions including immune system disorders, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, lyme disease, most cancers, infections, viruses, influenzas (including swine flu), and pain [11].

In May 2009, the FDA warned the company that its swine flu claims were illegal [12]. The site disappeared, but, as noted above, Skilling’s main Web site has continued to make dubious claims.


In 2012, buyers of the Photon-Genius were required to sign an “acknowledgment and waiver of liability” form intended to excuse the company responsibility for any of its actions. The form included these sentences:

  • I understand and agree that the Skilling Institute does not make any claims or guarantees whatsoever, expressed or implied, regarding accuracy of information, effects or outcomes of the information, analyses or therapies provided, and shall not be liable for same.
  • I certify that I seek the information, advice, technologies and therapies recommended by the Skilling Institute solely in my personal capacity, and do not represent any governmental agency, agency of law enforcement, law firm, attorney, or investigator. I am not involved in a lawsuit nor am I gathering information for a potential lawsuit by myself or others.
  • I have not relied upon any other information, promises, agreements or representations by the Skilling Institute, or any associates, employees, agents or representatives thereof concerning the information, technologies, therapies, or recommendations provided.
  • I understand and agree that neither the Skilling Institute, nor any associates, employees, agents, or representatives thereof, is liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, or incidental damage, injury, death, loss, delay, or inconve nience of any kind which may be occasioned by reason of any direct/indirect act, or. omission, including, without limitation, any willful or negligent act or failure to act, or breach, of contract or otherwise [13].

I don’t know if this form is still used. The Skilling Institute’s current Web sites state: “It is not our intention to prescribe or make specific health claims for any of our technologies or products.” However, I doubt that any such waiver or disclaimer would protect the company from further regulatory action or a civil lawsuit for fraud.

A Civil Suit

In January 2017, a Missouri couple filed suit against the Skilling Institute and Warren Starnes, charging that they had bought a Photon-Genius after being led to believe that it had helped people with Lyme disease and multiple sclerosis [14]. In 2018, the case was settled with undisclosed payment to the plaintiffs. The couple was ably represented by attorney Glenn R Gulick, Jr., of Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci.

  1. History, Ed Skilling Institute. Skilling Institute Web site, accessed December 6, 2018.
  2. ED SKILLING – Energy Medicine Researcher. Ed Skilling Institute of Technology Web site, archived, July 11, 2003.
  3. Carroll R. Radionics. The Skeptic’s Dictionary Web site, Sept 29, 2015.
  4. Photo Genie . . . for HARMONY. Ed Skilling Institute of Technology Web site, archived, July 13, 2003
  5. A fresh perspective on health: Photon Genie. Ed Skilling Institute of Technology brochure, 2004.
  6. Photon-Genius, Skilling Institute brochure, 2011.
  7. Photon-Genius. Skilling Institute Web site, accessed Dec 8, 2018.
  8. Got Genius? Now be the best you can be! Skilling Institute booklet, created April 2012, downloaded Dec 8, 2018.
  9. Skilling Institute to present revolutionary Photon-Genius instrument at conference July 29. Skilling Institute news release, July 27, 2011.
  10. Brown B. Photon Genius. Video, posted to YouTube in 2013.
  11. Swine flu pandemic solution: Photo Genie electromedicine powers up your immune system. Swine Flu Advisor, archived May 3, 2009.
  12. FDA Flu Task Force. Warning letter to Skilling Institute. May 14, 2009.
  13. Acknowledgment oand waiver of liability. Skilling Institute form, used in 2012.
  14. Petition. Kelley versus Skilling Institute, LLC and Warren J. Starnes. Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri at Kansas City. Case No. 1716-CV01479, filed Jan 27, 2017.

This article was revised on December 11, 2018.