Meet our Friday Muse Sam Dodd, in-house neuroscientist at Ārepa

2 May 2024
By Fashion Quarterly

From blackcurrants to brain performance, we peel back the many layers of Ārepa’s in-house neuroscientist Sam Dodd.

While most individuals struggle to know which career path to take in life, Sam Dodd was never one of them. His fascination with the brain began during high school, propelling him to pursue studies in both Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Auckland, followed by a Masters in Neuroscience. Now, bearing the title of a full-time neuroscientist, Dodd has dedicated the last several years to Ārepa, a pioneering beverage brand known for its innovative ‘brain drinks’ which enhance cognitive performance. With a hands-on role in research and product development, Dodd has been instrumental in shaping the brand’s groundbreaking beverages. As Ārepa prepares for new releases later this year, we thought it a fitting time to sit down with Dodd and delve into the fascinating realm of the brain and its inner workings.

Below, we chat with Dodd about how he came to work for Ārepa, the little things we can do to support our brain health, and what the formulation process looks like for each of their products.

In conversation with Sam Dodd:

Tell us a bit about you, your background, and your career to date in a few sentences.

I was born and raised in Auckland and spent time studying between here and Dunedin. I studied Neuroscience and Psychology, specifically working on Alzheimer’s Disease and Stroke rehabilitation. This was done on human brain tissue at the Centre for Brain Research in Grafton.

What first drew you to study neuroscience?

Once I properly started studying the brain, towards the end of high school and into the beginning of University, it quickly became a fascination of mine. Everything we will ever do, think and/or feel is driven by our brain. All of our interactions, experiences and memories.

How did you come to work for the Ārepa and what does your role involve?

A mutual friend put me in touch with Angus Brown, Ārepa’s co-CEO, due to our shared interest in neurological health and wellbeing, and I loved Ārepa’s caring, science-backed approach. It’s not often the opportunity comes up to be an in-house neuroscientist for a FMCG brand in New Zealand. 

In my role, I deal with the scientific side of many different facets of the company. This includes clinical trials, research and development, as well as marketing and design, legal and regulatory activity, and procurement. It’s fascinating and I’m always learning. 

Ārepa is known for its clinically researched ‘brain drinks’. Could you tell us a bit about the formulation process?

The key things that we do differently are ensure we pick the most efficacious ingredients, with the appropriate dosage as determined by the scientific literature. This is in order to provide the consumer with a ‘felt-effect’. This means you know that it is working and you can feel the way in which you are benefitting. We run our products through independent clinical trials to ensure efficacy before launching, using all the correct methods of independent verification, double-blind, controlled studies, placebo and crossover. We have had three studies to date peer-reviewed and published in leading international journals. Researching our product through science is a key value of our business. 

What does an average day look like for you?

My role is to look after the scientific side of the company and ensure that everything is accurate and aligned with the research. I also oversee the clinical trials and studies, as well as new product development. Ārepa’s goal is to make brains work better so our work is underpinned by that, I help ensure it is scientifically sound. This means I am always reading and researching scientific material to stay up to date with what is happening in the brain-health space. I also support the work of the scientists studying Ārepa and help interpret and communicate the results of each study. 

What little things can people do everyday to help support their brain health?

While it may not sound revolutionary, small, consistent habits are the key. Getting good sleep, daily sunlight, exercise, meditation, water/electrolytes and omega-3s (oily fish or supplements) all contribute positively to a healthy brain.

Who or what inspires you?

Seeing my friends and family do cool things and succeed. People devoting their time to help other people.

Do you have any exciting projects in the works that you can tell us about?

We’ve got a few exciting clinical trials that have been completed and we’re waiting for them to be published, so we’re looking forward to this. We’ve also got a major piece of research underway; I can’t share anything more at this stage, but it could be a game-changer for the New Zealand blackcurrant industry. 

What’s next for you? Personally and professionally?

Personally, I’m undertaking a renovation on my first home and really looking forward to going through the process. Professionally, this is a big year for Ārepa. We have our sights set on entirely new products and expansion into new markets is on the horizon. Watch this space.

Quickfire questions:

My favourite place to travel to… In New Zealand – Matarangi in the Coromandel. Globally – You can’t beat the Japanese culture, people or snow.

If I could have dinner with any three people on earth, dead or alive, I would choose… David Attenborough, Sam Harris, and James Brown.

Best coffee spot… Any sunny spot. Browns Eatery or Honeybones.

Last TV show I binged… 1923 — may or may not have been a single day affair.

The best book I’ve read recently… Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart is a must read.

My current podcast recommendation… ‘Making Sense’ with neuroscientist, philosopher and author Sam Harris is really informative and thought-provoking.

Where you’ll find me holidaying this season… My friends’ wedding in Oundle, north of London and then the Greek Islands.

I would describe my style as… I’d say I’m a minimalist and wear mostly monochromatic colours. Quality and fit of a garment is key, you won’t catch me in skinny jeans.  

Words: Amberley Colby
Imagery: Supplied


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