A few weeks ago, we published a post about how Thrive+® was officially becoming Cheers®. In that post’s introduction we also explained that some other major announcements were on the way, including: “the announcement of our first institutional round of funding, new advisory board members, and even new patents and technologies.”
So, as promised, here is the rest of those updates!
A few months ago, we set out to raise $2 million in seed funding. A few weeks after that, we closed an oversubscribed round totaling $2.1m. While the money is important, we’re even more excited about who we raised the money from NextView Ventures (other portfolio investments of theirs include TaskRabbit, threadUP, and Letgo) led the round. Other investors in the syndicate included Founder Collective (portfolio investments include Uber, PillPack, and SeatGeek), Fitz Gate Ventures (a brand new firm investing primarily in Princeton alumni owned and/or operated startups), and our original angel investors (primarily specializing in pharmaceuticals and biotech).
“1) Founders who want to solve the important problems people face every day. They’re building products in categories that people spend most of their time and money — food, housing, apparel, transportation, health, work and money, and entertainment.
2) Companies that have the potential to directly or indirectly touch the lives of very large segments of the population.
3) Products that are fundamentally technology-driven.” -NV website
Given that the majority of Americans consume alcohol regularly and spend on average over $220b annually on alcohol, Cheers® is clearly something that meets the needs of most people.
As would be expected with with our team and NextView’s alignment on the need for products that are fundamentally technology-driven (and have defensible intellectual property), a large portion of this funding is going towards our R&D efforts. This is something that we’ve been extremely secretive about until now.
When we formally launched this business venture in June of 2017 during our participation in Princeton’s eLab Summer Accelerator 2017, we knew that both intellectual property and brand would be critical in the success of our startup. So, we embarked on both above all else.
DHM (our main ingredient), for all intents and purposes, was discovered in 2012 for its anti-alcohol effects through a paper published in The Journal of Neuroscience titled “Dihydromyricetin As A Novel Anti-Alcohol Intoxication Medication”. This paper, among others, showed that DHM had the ability to:
Instantly sober up rats when injected with DHM
Prevent rats from becoming alcoholic when taken daily
Cure alcoholism in rats when taking DHM
Reduce liver damage stemming from alcohol and other causes (already shown in placebo controlled human studies)
Rats given DHM showed significant reductions in next day “hangover symptoms” — which can be shown through different methods including rat maze speed tests and seizure threshold testing.
These effects were primarily from 1) DHM being shaped like a Benzodiazepine and binding to the GABAa Receptor (the same receptor alcohol binds to), thus reducing GABAa rebound without any negative effects of its own and 2) its extremely strong antioxidative effects which could help to detoxify the liver.
Our founder, Brooks Powell, came across the DHM study only weeks after it had been published while doing research his Sophomore year at Princeton. Working with a number of professors and experts in regards DHM’s potential efficacy in humans, its status under the FDA, and its safety in humans… Cheers® became the first company to start importing 98%+ pure DHM and selling it in the United States.
As a first line of defense against competition, we were able to secure a granted patent for DHM combined with other ingredients (US 9,962,365 B2: Compositions and methods for preventing and recovery from detrimental effects of alcohol consumption).
While the success of our first human study and granted patent was exciting, we found ways that we could do even better.
DHM’s long-term efficacy in humans is limited primarily by its poor oral bioavailability. While it sounds complicated, oral bioavailability is simply the percentage of a drug taken orally (i.e., swallowed by mouth) that makes it into bloodstream so as to have an effect. DHM only has an oral bioavailability of 4%. This means that if you take 1000mg of DHM (roughly three large capsules), only 40mg makes it into your bloodstream to have an effect.
Thankfully, even with this poor bioavailability, DHM is still very effective. This is why we include the industry leading amount of DHM per dose and why our products are already very effective as they are. (The main downside is having to take 2-4 large capsules per dose.)
However, unlocking its bioavailability could lead significant increases in efficacy and potential, which would be a big win for consumers — as well as extremely valuable IP that would give us an edge over any current or future competition. As a company, we’re always looking to find ways to improve our products, and so investing significantly in our R&D efforts is a way to fulfill this mission. We’re really excited about everything coming down the pipeline and the ways we will be able to upgrade our products!
Our founder Brooks Powell was in a class titled “EGR 395:Venture Capital and Finance of Innovation" his senior year at Princeton where Shahram Hejazi (a veteran entrepreneur in the biotech space) was lecturing. The two became friends, and through our participation in Princeton’s 2017 eLab Summer Accelerator, Hejazi became a formal mentor to our startup.
Hejazi introduced us to a fellow professor named Bob Prud’homme. Over the past two decades, Prud’homme’s lab has specialized in creating novel drug delivery systems for poorly bioavailable drugs in such a way that 1) can significantly increase bioavailability, 2) only marginally increases cost-of-goods-sold, 3) is hyper scalable from a manufacturing perspective, and 4) is able to maintain shelf-stability.
Starting in August of 2017, our team started working with Prud’homme and his team as co-inventors to create drug delivery systems for DHM in every way that was theoretically plausible. After nearly a year and a half of hard work, animal studies, and filed patents, we are finally comfortable enough to announce the R&D that we’ve been working on.
Because there’s always multiple ways to increase the oral bioavailability of any given drug, our team has filed patents on every approach that we found promising and commercially viable. In 2019 these different methods will be optimized, tested multiple times in both animals and humans, and studied for safety. Whichever methods yield the best results will then be implemented into the Cheers® products in 2020.
If you think our Thrive+® (now Cheers®) products are game changing now… just wait until you see what they will be like next year!
In addition to the news about our fundraising and R&D efforts, our team has also brought on a number of leaders in both the startup and biotech world.
Josh Hix, Co-founder & CEO of Plated. Plated recently sold to Albertsons for $300 million.
Ben Cogan, Co-founder & Co-CEO of HubbleContacts. In less than three years, Hubble Contacts has already raised over $73 million in venture funding.
Shahram Hejazi, Founder of Optimeos. Shahram is a veteran entrepreneur and is an expert in the biotech space.
Robert Prud’homme, Ph.D. Robert specializes in making drug delivery systems for poorly bioavailable drugs and has worked with a number of organizations including The Gates Foundation and Merck.
Stanton Peele, Ph.D. Stanton is an award winning psychologist specializing in studying macro trends in alcohol consumption and alcoholism. His work has shown that countries promoting moderate alcohol consumption had less binge drinking, liver disease, and alcoholism than countries promoting abstinence.
This year Cheers® will primarily be focused on two things: 1) its R&D and 2) building out its new brand. We’re excited about the progress we have made thus far and are even more excited about the future.
Until then, Cheers!
—The Cheers® Team