Two undergraduates, Margaret Morse ’17 and Liam McClintock ’17, have created SunUp, an anti-hangover supplement. The pair have worked on the project since last semester.
According to SunUp’s website, the product aims to “eliminate productivity loss and suffering due to hangovers, as well as to improve health and liver function.” It consists of a powder, mixed with water and consumed approximately 45 minutes before drinking alcohol.
Morse, co-founder and head of science research for SunUp, said that current anti-hangover products such as Thrive+ and Blowfish direct users to take the supplements after drinking alcohol, acting as a band aid on the hangover. However, according to Morse, SunUp is unique in that users take it before drinking, preventing a hangover before it happens.
“We wanted to change the college drinking experience,” said McClintock, co-founder and head of operations. “We’re social people, involved in Greek life and athletics. We need to be productive but also like being social, so that’s where the problem originated.”
Morse, who studies molecular, cellular and developmental biology, said that in developing SunUp, she read scientific literature to understand the fundamental causes of a hangover.
According to Morse, SunUp’s specific formula targets the four root causes of a hangover: glutamate rebound, loss of electrolytes and vitamins, acetaldehyde buildup and gastrointestinal disturbances. Glutamate and acetaldehyde are an amino acid and chemical compound, respectively that contribute to the formation of hangover symptoms, Morse said.
McClintock explained that in developing SunUp, he and Morse pursued a two-step process in which they first identified the causes of a hangover, and then researched specific nutrients that would combat those causes. In conducting research, they found evidence of specific compounds being successfully used independently outside of combatting a hangover and decided to combine them. Together as a whole, McClintock said, the formula has been working well.
“This is another thing we’ve received advice about,” Morse added. “We know that the interactions are safe.”
While not all the components of SunUp are natural, as some compounds are synthesized, they are all sold for consumption, McClintock added.
According to a scientific paper on SunUp’s website, a key component of the product’s formula is a compound called sulforaphane, which is found in vegetables such as broccoli. Sulforaphane helps to eliminate acetaldehyde, a direct contributor to hangovers, through enzymatic processes. The paper noted that other ingredients in the product’s formula, including vitamins and mung bean powder, also contribute to the elimination of acetaldehyde.
Morse said that feedback on the product so far has been positive and rewarding, fueling the pair’s desire to pursue future developments on the product.
“At this stage, we’re targeting young professionals and college students,” said McClintock. “There will be different customers interested [in SunUp] for different reasons. Our initial position is that we want to target college students and young professionals who want to be social but also productive.”
McClintock added that SunUp will first be sold directly to consumers before expanding distribution to smaller retailers. He noted that the goal is to have the product at brick-and-mortar retailers like Good Nature Market and online on Amazon.
According to Morse, SunUp is currently entering its production process with the goal of producing 25,000 units for its first round of production. Most recently, SunUp signed a contract with a pharmaceutical manufacturer that will help produce and package the product. Morse added that SunUp will be launching a fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $20,000.
“Our formula is officially ‘patent-pending,’ which means that it is protected with a provisional patent for a year, giving us time to raise money before we would file a much more expensive, full patent,” McClintock explained.
McClintock explained that SunUp previously existed as a drink. The biggest pivot in SunUp’s development, he added, has been the transition to a powder, which decreases production costs to 67 cents per packet. Morse also added that the powder form is more convenient for consumers, as opposed to a drink or pill.
Speaking and consulting with other members of the Yale community has been, and continues to be, an invaluable part of SunUp’s development. McClintock described how he reached out to School of Management entrepreneurs before deciding on a pharmaceutical company to collaborate with, and Morse sought advice from Yale professors.
The sales of hangover-relieving products is estimated to reach $785 million in 2018.