The Yale startup Eli Nutrition, Inc., maker of a new antacid called Tummyzen, is the first recipient of a $100,000 investment from the YEI Innovation Fund. The fund was launched in September 2013 by Yale University, Connecticut Innovations, and First Niagara Bank to deliver much-needed early-stage funding to the most promising startups emerging from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.
“We are thrilled that Eli Nutrition was chosen for investment from the YEI Innovation Fund,” says Erika Smith, deputy director of YEI. “They have a unique product backed by Yale science that shows tremendous promise for treating acid reflux.”
The startup was born from Yale’s Technology Commercialization Program, which is jointly run by YEI and the Yale Office of Cooperative Research (OCR) and matches promising faculty research with enterprising business school students at the Yale School of Management. Yale School of Medicine professor Dr. John Geibel conducted the pioneering research. Through the program, Geibel was paired with Hasan Ansari (SOM ’14), a serial entrepreneur with a decade of professional experience in product commercialization, product planning, and strategy consulting.
Tummyzen treats acid reflux using zinc, which Geibel discovered is highly effective in stopping acid secretion in the stomach without any side effects and while providing increased health benefits. Multiple animal and human studies have since confirmed that a zinc-based formula acts just as fast as over-the-counter antacids while lasting four to five hours as opposed to 30 minutes. In addition, patients benefitted from zinc’s wound-healing properties.
“If you had an active erosion in the esophagus, this could aid in the repair process in addition to balancing the acid levels to provide heartburn relief,” Geibel says. This research was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology and has patents in the U.S and internationally.
“Our belief is that many people taking harsh medications can manage heartburn much more safely through a dietary supplement,” Ansari says.
Eli Nutrition is built around a team of Yale students: Fanni Li (SOM ’14), who has a background in healthcare, operations, and consulting; Yulia Khvan (SOM ’14), a lawyer working on her M.B.A.; Srikar Prasad (SOM ’14), a serial entrepreneur with healthcare experience; and Faisal Hamid (YC ’13), who is developing Tummyzen’s online presence. In 2013, the Eli Nutrition Team was one of 10 that received a $20,000 YEI Summer Fellowship to develop and launch their product. The company also received a $12,000 entrepreneurial grant from the Yale School of Management, and an Innovation Voucher grant from the State of Connecticut. That support allowed the startup to launch its product in the local community.
“The $100,000 enables us to start the process of more extensive marketing and sales,” Ansari says. “It’s also a vote of confidence in the company and a signal to other investors.” The Yale students plan to launch an online marketing campaign, to order their first full production batch of 10,000 bottles, and to ramp up online sales.
“People are eager for new solutions,” Ansari says. “We are on our way to changing how America manages its heartburn.”