by Y Combinator8/17/2016
Multiply Labs makes pills that can be customized to release supplements at different times throughout the day. For instance, you could take a single pill in the morning with vitamin C and vitamin D3 released immediately and caffeine released later for a midday energy boost. We sat down with the entire Multiply Labs team to talk about this new technology.
What YC Likes About Multiply Labs:
“The demand for personalized supplement pills is something that’s been around for quite a while. I think what Multiply Labs is doing is particularly interesting because they are using new technology to serve an old demand.” -Qasar Younis, Partner & COO at Y Combinator
YC : How did you come up with the idea for a customizable pill? Alice: For my PhD, I used injection molding to produce pills that can control the release of drug contents. Injection molding could be used for mass production of pills, but it seemed like a good idea to develop a completely new 3D printing production system to be able to personalize pills. I didn’t know much about 3D printing so I reached out to Fred, who was getting his PhD in robotics.
In the next two and a half years, we filed a patent and validated our technology with international papers and awards. Once the science was proven, we decided to commercialize it. This was when we reached out to our friends in business school, Joe and Tiffany.
YC : Can you explain how it works? Alice: Multiple supplements are placed into a capsule shell made of different pharmaceutical polymers. The shell has different compartments of varying thickness, which allows different supplements to be released at certain times rather than all at once.
YC : This technology is amazing but what’s wrong with how supplements are taken today? Joe: There are two problems that we’re solving with this pill. The first is around discovery. People spend a lot of time doing research online, trying to figure out what kind of supplements they need to take. Even after all that research, many people still end up taking multivitamins because they’re the safest bet. But these multivitamins are built for the average person so it doesn’t necessarily address your specific health needs.
When you log onto our site you answer some questions around what you’re trying to optimize for. The supplements for general health, energy, or enhancing exercise are all different so we take the guesswork out of it for you. We provide information from studies on each supplement that you can add into the pill so you know exactly what each one does. This ties into the second part: customization. Most pills give you a wide combination of vitamins and supplements but you might not need all of them. With our platform, you can create your own pill with only what you need.
Fred: We deliver two week supplies so you’re able to test the pill you created and adjust accordingly. You no longer have to commit to a huge purchase and you get to control the exact amount that goes into your body.
YC : What kind of feedback have you gotten from people who’ve tried this? Joe: Earlier this summer we ran an Alpha test with some volunteers and they loved it. It validated a lot of our assumptions around how to provide a great user experience. It’s also interesting to see how people mix and match their supplements. We’ve seen people mix in caffeine with their supplements so they’ll have an energy boost later in the day without another cup of coffee.
YC : Have you run into any FDA regulations? Tiffany: Because we are a supplement company so we don’t have to go through clinical trials to test our product. On the manufacturing side, we want to maintain a high quality product. So, we’re working with GMP consultants to ensure that we have the facilities and processes that follow the GMP guidelines for dietary supplements. But, the FDA does not need to give us approval prior to shipping product.
YC : Do you plan on moving beyond supplements and energy boosters? Fred: There are a lot of potential uses cases for this kind of technology past supplements. The first place we see it being applied is with medication. Many elderly people have to take multiple pills at varying times throughout the day. It’s not always easy to remember and keep track of what you take but it’d be great if you could just take one and be done with it. Also, there are also opportunities to use this on something called orphan diseases, which are diseases that only affect a small portion of the population. We could potentially print pills for orphan disease because, unlike pharmaceutical companies, we don’t have to mass manufacture pills.
Y Combinator created a new model for funding early stage startups. Twice a year we invest a small amount of money ($150k) in a large number of startups (recently 200). The startups move to Silicon