The dietary supplement Luminate Focus created by Hafiz Dhanani, originally a member of the Class of 2016 who is now taking time off from school, is now for sale on Amazon at a price of$46.95 per bottle of 60 capsules.
Marketed as a“non-addictive, safe and effective cognitive enhancement supplement supported by clinical research,” the product is formally a dietary supplement rather than a drug. Dietary supplements do not have to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration in order to be sold.
Dhanani wrote in an email to Butler College late last week that the product had yet to be launched officially but that it is already available through Amazon.
In an interview, he said thathe had multiple conversations with molecular biology professor Jeffry Stock regarding the biological effects of Luminate.
“He patented a novel way of extracting molecules from coffee beans that he thinks prevents neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s,” Dhanani said of Stock.“He thinks the [Luminate] idea is really interesting and we've met a couple of times."
Dhanani added that he hopes to gain Stock as an advisor and wants to create more relationships with neuroscience professors to further legitimize his product.
Stock declined to comment for this article.
The originality of the Luminate formula has been questioned in the past. In February, the founders of the natural supplement company Natural Stacks accusedDhanani of inappropriately borrowing their formula.
Although the product is available on the Amazon website, it is not being sold directly by Amazon. Instead, Luminate is registered as a third-party seller on the website. The seller has yet to receive any reviews.
The product itself had received seven reviews with an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars,as of Wednesday evening.All but one of the reviewers have not reviewed any other Amazon products except for Luminate.
Dhanani explained that he did ask some of his early customers to write "unbiased reviews" of Luminate on Amazon as the product has not yet launched officially.
He was able to distribute his product through Amazon after completing the brand registry process.In order to sell on Amazon, Dhanani explained, he had to provide a barcode number, known as a Universal Product Code, and prove that he was the exclusive brand owner of Luminate. The approval process took a few days, and Luminate has been on sale for about a week, he said.
The word Luminate was registered as a trademark on Feb. 15 this year, according to documents filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The application included two pictures of the product “as used in commerce.” The bottle has an orange label that reads Luminate with the slogan “Focus is a Beautiful Thing.”
Luminate was registered by Luminate Labs LLC, a company formally established in the state of Delaware just a few days earlier on Feb. 10.
The trademark application lists a Frist Mailbox as the company's address. Dhanani, who is Canadian, said that he used a friend's address because he needed a mailing address in the US in order to receive company documents.
Opinions on the product from students appear to be mixed.
Andre Douglas '16 expressed his doubts about the product, suggesting the University should do something to stop the proliferation of the dietary supplement.
“First and foremost not much is known about Luminate. It seems to be just a buzzword for… an academic performance-enhancing drug and not much has been divulged about its chemical composition, its potential side effects, and who are and are not at risk for its side effects if they exist. It seems to me a drug that’s too good to be true- it seems like a substitute for an even more well known drug like Adderall,” Douglas said.
Dhanani said Luminate Focus is a dietary supplement, not a drug, and the FDA does not regulate these types of products. However, he noted that FDA officials frequently visit the manufacturer that he collaborated with.
Unlike Douglas, some students who have taken Luminate Focus have stated the product helped them with their studies.
Jessica Ma ’15, whose name was provided by Dhanani, said in an interview that she began to use the supplement in January and then two weeks later until she ran out of the product.
“Previously before using the supplement I’d been kind of struggling with school. … I kind of felt that I wasn’t able to focus that well,” Ma said. “When I started taking it consistently … I really felt that I was much, much better at processing information. ... I think really for me the magic of Luminate is that unlike other pills, you really realize that when you take it it's not the pills that are really making you able to focus, but the pills are able to make you discover your ability to focus.”
Ma is a former senior writer for the Street Section of The Daily Princetonian.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the relationship between Jessica Ma '15 and Luminate. Her name was provided to the 'Prince' by Luminate's creator, Hafiz Dhanani. The 'Prince' regrets the error.