An over-the-counter product for treating warts and shingles is coming from an unusual place: lobsters.
A Maine lobster researcher is hoping to harvest the sea critter's blood and put it to new uses.
"We have tissue culture experiments that demonstrate that it's antiviral," said Robert Bayer, one of the researchers behind the venture.
Bayer, the executive director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine in Orono, has a patent filing that details the use "crustacean hemolymph... for a pharmaceutical and/or cosmetic treatment of viral and other neoplastic or pre-neoplastic mammalian tissue legions."
To put this patent to use, Bayer has teamed with Cathy Billings, associate director of the Lobster Institute, as well as a retired New York ad exec, among others. The university isn't part of the venture, known as Lobster Unlimited LLC. (It was first reported by the Bangor Daily News.)
The start-up's first product is expected to be a cream that will be known as LobsteRx, according to Billings. She wouldn't divulge how much lobster serum is needed for each container, although she indicated that the serum is "the major active ingredient" and added that shea butter also might be added as an ingredient.
The serum is harvested from the lobsters using a syringe technique that enters the lobster's soft tissue. The company also has been testing a type of vacuum pressure to assist in the process.
The good news is the lobster is still edible after the serum is extracted. The group plans to work with lobsters used in the meat-processing market or for frozen tails.
"One of the things that happens during the processing is they bleed out," said Bayer. "So it's not that different than the normal process. There are massive amounts of blood you're (processors) paying sewer charges on."