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UNH spawns energy gel company

Product comes from dissertation

Heavy lids can be powerful things. The pull of sweet sleep and that bargain of keeping weary eyes closed for just a second can mean missing out on much needed studying, failing to complete an assignment or worse, not making it home safe.

While coffee and other caffeinated standbys are the typical go-tos for sleepy students and drivers, some people want a more natural wake up fix. Enter Wakup Energy Gel.

“If you’re a typical health-conscious American you want natural ingredients in pretty much everything you get,” said Jeff Rapson, Wakup Inc.’s vice president of business development. “And most of the products – whether it’s candies, pills, energy shot beverages, gum – they are all filled with caffeine.”

But he said, Wakup Energy Gel is an all-natural product created by University of New Hampshire student Shaojun “Shaw” Yao for his Ph.D. dissertation. Yao himself had fallen asleep at the wheel once. So he put that together with the work he was doing with polymers in his chemistry lab to come up with his patented concoction for the anti-fatigue gel. He discovered that he could create the topical pick-me-up by mixing a variety of natural oils, including peppermint, pepper and menthol. He then discovered that hydrogel made a great vehicle for delivering the oils.

Rapson said the gel is a nonaddictive alternative to other stimulants. The gel is applied below the nostrils and proposed to give a boost for about an hour. Rapson said this is a way of staying awake without getting the jitters or experiencing the other side effects of caffeine.

Wakup Inc. is UNH’s sixth startup company. Yao started Wakup Inc. after participating in the university’s Holloway Innovation-to-Market competition last spring.

Tristan Carrier, licensing manager in UNH’s Office for Research Partnerships and Commercialization, called Wakup the “most recent example of the innovative and creative research at UNH being used to address a market need. We are eager to work with our researchers to keep growth opportunities like these local and create jobs in the state.”

Rapson said he believes their core customers are going to be sleepy commuters, college students and people working two or more jobs.

He said the company is still definitely growing, having only sold a few hundred units of the gel through their website. He said at the moment they are busy raising capital to not only develop an all-natural topical gel to help people sleep, but improving the current packaging of the energy gel. Right now the gel comes in a lip balm like tube. However, the gel has a looser consistency than a waxy lip balm. So, Rapson said, they are hoping to rejigger that aspect of the product for the next phase.

For information about Wakup, visit wakupinc.com.

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