Hafiz Dhanani ’16, the creator of Luminate, has been accused of borrowing formulas developed by the founders of a supplement company called Natural Stacks without giving due credit. Luminate is marketed as a natural supplement that boosts concentration.
Ben Hebert and Roy Krebs, co-founders of Natural Stacks, said that one of their products, called CILTEP, contains the same combination of artichoke and Forskolin that Luminate does. They said that Natural Stacks Director of Research and Development Abelard Lindsay came up with the idea of combining the two items to make CILTEP, although the product was developed in an open-source environment and tried by thousands of users.
“It was just odd that he didn’t credit Abelard Lindsay,” Hebert said. “He explained that it worked by increasing cAMP and using artichoke extract, and, well Abelard Lindsay is the only person to have figured that out, and by [Dhanani] trying to claim that, we kind of took offense.”
Dhanani declined to comment for this story.
Despite the accusations, which were first reported by the blog IvyGate, Herbert noted that they did not consider that they had intellectual property over the ingredients in their product, but that “some sort of respect was due to the creator.”
While Hebert and Krebs contest the originality of Luminate, others question whether or not it works at all.
Samuel Wang, associate professor of molecular biology, said he couldn’t attest to the functionality of Luminate or the CILTEP supplement.
“The key test is whether such supplements are known to work in controlled studies in humans, where there is a matched control,” Wang said. “What I see on that [Luminate] website are general review articles and some work in rats. I do not see any human studies.”
The creators of CILTEP said they didn’t have any clinical trials to back up their claims.
“There have not been any clinical studies,” added Hebert, “but [CILTEP] was open-source created for about two and a half years now, so thousands of different people have tried it.”
Wang went on to say he didn’t see a huge need for people to take supplements like Luminate to improve focus.
“Personally, if I want a cognitive enhancer,” Wang said, “it is hard to beat currently approved drugs. Some are even over-the-counter, such as caffeine. That’s the one to beat. When someone develops a cognitive enhancer as powerful and generally safe as caffeine, that will be a multibillion-dollar drug. Of course, then it could compete with Small World Coffee.”
Andy Hunt ’17, who took a sample of the supplement in the past month, said he was instructed to take three pills of Luminate and two of caffeine.
Hunt was then asked to send Dhanani a product review later that day.
“I told him how [the combination of pills] made me feel, which was that I felt like I could study better,” Hunt said. “Lots of energy, which is true, but it was probably the caffeine, and he quoted my feelings but not the caffeine part.”
Though Hunt said he would not buy any Luminate, his experience sampling the pills did lead him to buy caffeine pills online.