Russ: Hi I’m Russ Capper and this is The BusinessMaker Show. My guest today is Brooks Powell, Founder and CEO of Thrive+. Brooks, welcome to the BusinessMaker Show.
Brooks: Thanks for having me Russ.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about Thrive+.
Brooks: Thrive+ is a product that’s somewhere between a vitamin for people who drink and a hangover cure. Probably the best metaphor that we have for it is sort of like sunscreen for alcohol. If you think about sunscreen you can put it on anytime you’re going to go spend time in the sun, even if you’re not that worried about a sunburn, or you can just use it when you think you might have a sunburn. So that’s where kind of our products comes in; it’s like for alcohol you can take it just to be healthy or you can take it sort of as preventing a sunburn which would be like a hangover.
Russ: Okay, does that mean that there’s evidence that you have less of a hangover if you’ve taken Thrive+ before you drink?
Brooks: A lot of the early studies were rat studies and so this is called translational medicine, when you first sort of start in rat studies and then you move to humans. We did our first human study for our patent, which is now granted and you can actually go look that up online, but in that study we show that there’s 50 percentage point reduction in next day symptoms when using Thrive+.
Russ: Wow. Is there also a 50% reduction in the inebriation?
Brooks: That’s something that can happen if you take it prior to consuming alcohol. There’s all kinds of legal liabilities and it’s kind of something we don’t want to touch with a 10 foot pole, so we say take Thrive+ after your last alcoholic beverage or before going to bed.
Russ: Okay, wow.
Brooks: In an ideal world you’d actually take it 90 minutes before you want to be done consuming alcohol, so that’s kind of what we do inside the company. It’d be a little confusing if we pitched it to consumers that way, so generally speaking it’s more effective the closer it is to the last alcoholic beverage you consumed and it gets less effective the longer you wait in between the period of when your last alcoholic beverage is and when you take the product.
Russ: So exactly how does it work?
Brooks: It works in a number of different ways but for brevity’s sake I’ll just focus on the two main ones. The first one is that this Dihydromricetin binds to the same brain receptor that alcohol binds to and by doing so it satiates the receptor so that you shorten the time that you go through alcohol withdrawal and alcohol withdrawal is the major reason that you feel hung over the next day. And also the longer you go through withdrawal the more likely you are to develop dependence to alcohol, so that first one is sort of reducing short term alcohol withdrawal.
And the second way it works is between the Dihydromricetin and the N-Acetyl Cysteine, which is the other big ingredient we have in there, it’s sort of the precursor to what your liver uses to process alcohol and its other toxic byproducts. And really your liver only stores enough of sort of this ammunition per se for one to two drinks for women and about two to three drinks for men. So you can quickly see that you run into a deficit if you’re drinking more than two, three or four drinks. And so this sort of gives you the ammunition to process all that alcohol and toxic byproducts.
Russ: This sounds huge to me. Maybe I don’t pay attention to it enough, but are there other drugs or medicines or herbs that claim this today?
Brooks: So when we were actually doing our patent one of the things that we actually had to go do was go find all the prior art; so find everything that other people have tried to do out there. We searched in a number of different languages and we looked at everything out there and at that time there was like 135 products in the market in the United States, China, Mexico, South America, etcetera, and so they’re out there and that’s sort of been one of the challenges that we’ve had to overcome. Because there’s a lot of products out there that don’t work that are sort of snake oil and people see the idea of a hangover cure – sort of the holy grail – as something that’s not possible and therefore they don’t really want to try our product because they lump us in with those other snake oils.
Russ: Absolutely and so how are you overcoming that?
Brooks: So we first tried to get into retail and that’s when we sort of realized this problem. It’s that the market really doesn’t sort of trust these types of products when you just look at a point of sales display, you don’t know much about a product and you go oh that has to be snake oil. So one of the ways that we got passed that is we really moved to selling primarily online; so we want to scale our business online.
The reason for that is that you can actually, when you click on our ad because you’re interested in it, you get taken to our web page and you say oh, this is invented at Princeton and a Princeton Neuroscience professor helped this with two Princeton professors with PhDs in Biological Engineering on the team; we have a granted patent on it and did a study. Once you really start getting into it you go oh wow, this is really convincing. And that’s really only something you can do online, you can’t really recreate that in retail.
Russ: Okay, so before I go further what is your web address?
Brooks: That is DecideThrive.com
Russ: DecideThrive.com. So that is pretty interesting mentioning Princeton. I’ve heard of Princeton before and so that’s where the idea was born?
Brooks: Yeah. So going all the way back, basically I was a Sophomore at the time and I was in a neuroscience class. We were learning about how various drugs affected the brain and basically I was really curious about alcohol because this is sort of – college culture has a lot of drinking and so I was interested in alcohol because we were discussing all of these different drugs but we really didn’t talk about how alcohol worked from within the brain; how it affects various receptors and what those affects are, like how bad it function.
So I was looking this up and then I came across an article in the Journal of Neuroscience called Dihydronricetin as the novel anti-intoxication medicine. So the first thing to point out is that anytime you get published in the Journal of Neuroscience that is the height of your career; there’s no higher sort of publication that you can get into from a science thing. The second thing is when you have a title that says a novel anti-intoxication medication and you get that into the Journal of Neuroscience that’s a really big deal.
Russ: So this is what made you a believer?
Brooks: Right, so this was a bunch of basically animal studies with massive affect sizes. So a lot of times animal studies aren’t necessarily translatable to humans. So a cow has four stomachs so if you do some study on how some drug affects a cow’s stomach it’s probably not going to work in a human stomach because we just have one stomach; but for rats, specifically dealing with the GABAA receptor, which is the receptor that alcohol affects in the brain, 99% of the time something that happens in that receptor will also happen in humans. So basically I read this article, the article had just been published a few months prior to me reading it so I was one of the first people really sort of reading it; I brought it straight to my neuroscience professor.
He ended up getting so excited about the idea he scrapped a planned class lecture, lectured on this instead, and I basically pitched him my vision for hey, what if we took this, see if it works in humans and if it does start selling it. In this study they showed the Dihydromricetin can do three things. They found that if you injected a rat with the human equivalent of 15 standard drinks – so this rat is basically hammered right – you put them in this funny sort of like hammock thing that a drunk rat can’t get out of and the you follow it up with an injection if Dihydromricetin – or DHM for short – they would instantly sober up. So a drunk rat would sit in that cradle for like 80 minutes and then the one that got the injection of Dihydromricetin following up would hop out of this cradle in like 3 or 4 minutes; so instantly sobered up.
The other thing they found is that if you leave predisposed rats who become alcoholics in a room with food, water and alcohol that they become full blown alcoholics in 3 weeks; so they drink about 4 to 5 times more than they were originally drinking the first week by weeks 3 or 4. Then if you just put Dihydromricetin in the water of these rats, those rats never developed a dependency to alcohol.
Russ: So we’re upgrading now from curing just a hangover to something much more significant, right?
Brooks: Right. And that was basically the third study that they showed within there was that these rats showed no signs of hangovers. And the way they were actually able to prove that is that alcohol is a depressant, so when alcohol leaves your system you actually go into the opposite of a depressant which is anxiety. So that’s why if you think about when you’re hung over lights are too bright, sounds are too loud, you don’t feel good; you’re going through this alcohol withdrawal. So basically what they do is they put these rats through seizure threshold testing; so they shine lights at them in varying intensities and a hung over rat would go into a seizure much more easier than a rat that hadn’t previously had alcohol. And this Dihydromricetin got rid of those seizures almost as good as the control group, pretty incredible study.
Russ: Now let’s back up, we’ve really gone to interesting places here.
Brooks: As you can see I really like the science of this stuff.
Russ: Well maybe everybody does if you get it out there. But the product is for sale today right?
Brooks: That’s correct.
Russ: And the products for sale today are these, right?
Brooks: Yes. So basically this product Thrive+ – the main product is called After Alcohol Aide. You take 3 capsules after your last alcoholic beverage or before going to bed. A lot of people think the hangover is just dehydration so basically what we made is a hydration product that goes along with it. So if you really want the best effect you take both products at the same time after drinking.
Russ: Okay and people can buy them on your website right now, which is probably the only place they can buy them, right?
Russ: But it sounds like with the significance of the way DHM works is that you have future products in mind as well?
Brooks: So that’s one of the next steps is starting to go through drug development. One of the ways we are sort of able to get this product to market is that even though it’s sort of a novel ingredient, the way the United States Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act works is that anything prior to 1994 automatically is allowed to be sold. Anything after 1994 that wasn’t in the U.S. market has to go through a new dietary ingredient notification process – expensive, time-consuming, really hard to do – unless this is used as a food product in another country prior to 1994.
It’s sort of a backdoor into being able to classify it as a dietary supplement. And so we were able to actually get it into the market through this backdoor, so that’s allowed us to start selling it right away. And then what we’re trying to do is figure out can we tweak the formula in such a way like a slow release so as to make potentially an anti-alcoholism drug. That’s the long goal.
Russ: Wow. This is so interesting, I want to stay in touch with you and see about progress, but particularly pleased that you came onto our show and shared the story with us today.
Brooks: Yeah, definitely; thanks for having me.
Russ: You bet Brooks. And that wraps up my discussion with Brooks Powell, Founder and CEO of Thrive+ and this is The BusinessMakers Show.
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