By: Rachel Siegel
A group of Yale students has been awarded $100,000 from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s Innovation Fund to develop a product for heartburn relief.
The product, known as Tummyzen, was created by the Yale startup Eli Nutrition. Eli Nutrition had previously worked with the YEI, securing a $20,000 grant from the YEI Summer Fellowship program and a $12,000 grant from the Yale School of Management in 2013 to help with the development of Tummyzen in its early stages. In December, members of Eli Nutrition learned that they had received the $100,000 investment from the YEI Innovation Fund — a fund created by Yale, Connecticut Innovations and First Niagara Bank.
“We didn’t really have the words,” said Yulia Khvan SOM ’14, Tummyzen’s Chief Financial Officer. “It was mostly screaming [with joy].”
Eli Nutrition is run by a group of Yale students including Khvan, Hasan Ansari SOM ’14, Faisal Hamid ’14, Srikar Prasad SOM ’14 and Fanni Li SOM ’14. The team began working with Dr. John Geibel, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine, through Yale’s Technology Commercialization Program. The program matches faculty members from different areas of the University with students at the School of Management to create successful businesses using joint research.
Geibel, who has been researching acid reflux for years, led the medical research behind the antacid, while the students developed the business model. Geibel said his medical team met up with Ansari a year and a half ago to discuss creating a product based on his patented research.
“We are all so passionate about Tummyzen because we know that the product will help a lot of people in a deep and impactful way,” said Li, who is the Chief Operating Officer for Tummyzen. “We have seen first-hand how folks who take prescription acid reflux drugs, or even have surgery to reduce their reflux symptoms, have found significant relief from our [dietary supplement].”
According to Geibel, 25 to 35 million people per year are diagnosed with acid reflux-related illness.
Tummyzen is unique in that it uses zinc to relieve acid reflux symptoms, Geibel said. This natural mineral can be more effective in reducing acid secretion than even prescription drugs, Geibel said, adding that its soothing effects can last for four to five hours. Because of its natural base, Tummyzen also does not have the side effects associated with acid reflux drugs, he added.
Deputy Director of YEI Erika Smith said Tummyzen was originally selected for the YEI Summer Fellowship because of its high probability of success. She added that she thinks the most recent investment will bring Tummyzen to the next level in terms of production and marketing.
Ansari, who suffers from acid reflux himself, said the next step will be using the $100,000 to get the product on shelves in stores across the country. The money will also be used to educate consumers about Tummyzen, Li said.
Geibel described Tummyzen as a “nutriceutical,” meaning that the product does not have to undergo a full trial with the Food and Drug Administration. Consumers can buy Tummyzen much like they would other vitamins and minerals at the grocery store, he said, adding that the product was also recently posted on Amazon.
Members of the team who have watched the product grow from its inception to now said they have found the process rewarding.
“We made this happen,” Ansari said. “The best part is when people take [Tummyzen] and we’re just [ecstatic about] how much relief they get. It’s really the best feeling in the world.”