By night, students drink. By day, they struggle through hangovers in precepts and in athletic practices, among other places.
"You just kind of always hear people complaining about hangovers,” Brooks Powell’16 said. “So, basically,at first I was thinking, 'How great would it be if someone could invent a hangover cure?' "
Powell, a member of the swim team, decided to do just that in mid-January. His product,Thrive+, is described on itswebsiteas "a patent-pending hangover cure that protects your brain and body from the negative effects of alcohol while supplementing your body to break down alcohol’s toxic by-products." The intended usage is to take three capsules after consuming alcohol. The product is sold in a bottle of 30 pills.
One of the main ingredients inThrive+ is dihydromyricetin, also known as DHM, a flavonoid component of a Japanese raisin tree extract. The extract is used as a traditional hangover remedy in Oriental countries.
Powell came across a scholarly article about DHM while looking for dietary supplements that could be taken in a safe and sustainable way. The article, entitled "Dihydromyricetin As a Novel Anti-Alcohol Intoxication Medication," appeared inThe Journal of Neuroscience,which molecular biology and neuroscience professor Samuel Wang called one of the core journals in his field.According to Powell, the study found that after being injected with alcohol, rats that took DHM did not show the signs of hangovers that affected rats without DHM.
Powell, who took Wang's course NEU 101: Neuroscience and Everyday Life, approached his professor for help interpreting the study. Wang explained that alcohol largely works on the brain by acting on the GABA receptor and that according to the article, DHM blocks alcohol's effects on the GABA receptor and therefore on the brain.
"It looked like there was real scientific evidence for it, and so that was interesting to me because that made it different from other supplements and extracts," Wang said, noting that most traditional remedies lack supporting studies and prove useless when sold to consumers.
Harnessing the alumni network
Powell soon assembled a beta product by combining DHM with other ingredients that included ginger root and vitamins B, C and E among others.After attending an alumni-mentoring event in which University swimming and diving alumni offered career advice to members of the current team, Powell connected with Andrew Chadeayne’01, a patent attorney whohad started a business based on his own chemical invention.
Chadeayne said he recognized that he owed his success to the University and to the swimming and diving program, so helping Powell represented an opportunity to give back. Communicating by phone, Chadeayne guided Powell in preparing and filing a patent application in May.
"Here's an undergraduate that I've never met who I did tens of thousands of dollars' worth of work for, for free, simply because he's a Princeton swimmer," Chadeayne said.
Christianity's role inThrive+
Powell saidThrive+ has encountered mixed reactions in the religious circles to which he belongs. He noted that many pastors in his community questioned the product at first but then expressed their support once Powell explained his position. Still others, like certain deacons, have deemedThrive+ inappropriate.
Powell explained that, to him,Thrive+ answers the call for Christians to interact with the world in a beneficial way.
"God's calling us not just to transform and redeem people, but also culture—because people make culture and culturemakes people. And so that's a call for Christians to try to transform all domains," he explained, naming environmental, social, political and economic domains as examples.Thrive+ focuses on the social domain through its aim to improve the experience of drinking socially, Powell said.
However, critics ofThrive+ argue that because a hangover cure reduces the consequences of drinking, Powell's invention may incentivize people to drink more. Princeton Theological Seminary biblical studies professor Dennis Olson explained that the Bible admonishes against excessive drinking that leads to impaired judgment.
Olson added thatThrive+ is aligned with the principles of Christianity because loving God and loving one’s neighbors are basic obligations within the Judeo-Christian context.
"If this product has some good effects on individuals, whether they come to faith or not, well then, it can have the expression of loving your neighbor in that way," he said.
But Olson took issue with Powell's claim of transforming culture, calling for a distinction between major, global transformations of culture like the Internet and inventions with positive effects on a smaller scale.
Princeton Faith and Action Director Tim Adhikari, whom Powell said helped craft the company's Christian vision and mission, countered thatThrive+ transforms culture by reducing the negative chemical dependency involved in drinking.
"If we look through all of the epic, shaping initiatives and endeavors throughout history, I think most of them at the front end felt like, 'Man, that's a little audacious, don't you think?' " he said.
Hitting the market
Although still in the pre-order stage,Thrive+ has reached potential customers in the form of beta version capsules. Powell distributed samples to 450 people in exchange for email addresses at the 5th reunion tent during Reunions weekend. Because some users returned the next day, citing positive experiences and asking for more, Powell estimated that he gave out approximately 900 samples in total.
University of Houston sophomore Javi Salazar sawThrive+ at a fraternity house party last month and decided to try it. Though he was skeptical at first, he said that the following morning after drinking, he did not have a hangover.
"Thrive+ really delivers. It really does what it says it does, and I think that's actually something we need more of these days," Salazar said, adding that he will probably take the capsules to avoid hangovers in the future.
The members of about 20 fraternities at various universities have agreed to sampleThrive+ once the orders are ready for delivery, Powell said.
He is working with anotherstudent, a helicopter pilot and many volunteers from among friends and family to launch the final product this month.