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Maine-based company seeks partnership to test ability of compound found in lobster to fight COVID-19 and other diseases

Hemolymph, found in the blood-like fluid of lobster, contains hemocyanin - a known antiviral that has been used to combat some viruses. Could it combat COVID-19?

ORONO, Maine — Maine people are innovative and we've seen just how innovative they can be in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Lobster Unlimited LLC in Orono can be added to the list of Maine companies that is seeking to offer potential solutions to the global health crisis we are all facing.

Imagine the possibility of Maine's lobster industry collaborating in using a plentiful and reliable resource that could impact the health of those fighting viruses, cancer and potentially COVID-19.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Lobster Unlimited LLC a patent in late October related to their work, after experiments showed a compound found in lobster can reduce the viral load of herpes simplex virus-infected cells. 

The compound is called hemocyanin, and it's found in hemolymph, the blood-like fluid found in lobsters. It's already being used in the development of cancer vaccines and treatments.

RELATED: Maine company believes lobster blood could play role in new drugs

The lobster processing industry throws millions of pounds of hemolymph down the drain in their facilities. Given the lobster industry in Maine, it makes this a product worth pursing for several reasons - availability being one of them.

Dr. Bob Bayer, a long time lobster scientist and one of several members of the dedicated team at Lobster Unlimited LLC found that hemocyanin, a protein in the fluid, works as a powerful stimulant for the immune system and is a known antiviral.

Co-founder of Lobster Unlimited LLC, Matt Hodgkin, who graduated with a Master's degree in Animal and Veterinary Sciences from the University of Maine, has completed a successful laboratory experiment that showed the effectiveness of hemocyanin against the herpes simplex 1 virus.

Hodgkin grew the herpes virus in human kidney cells and then exposed those cells to hemocyanin. The results showed a reduction in the viral load causing the virus to become inactive. "We do have the data that shows it's an antiviral," Bayer said. "It kills the herpes simplex virus."

Pharmaceutical companies are racing to find a vaccine to stop the deadly virus that has impacted the way our nation and the world function. Could hemocyanin be an effective treatment for coronaviruses - viruses such as SARS and COVID-19? 

 "If it happens to be effective, it's a potential treatment," said Bayer.

No one knows its potential until it's tested, however. Lobster Unlimited LLC is looking to partner with a bio-secure lab as soon as possible so testing can begin. "We'll give them the material and they can perform the tests and provide results," Hodgkin said. "It would be great to have the opportunity."

Credit: NCM

Lobster Unlimited LLC said its mission is to create innovative value-added products from lobster processing waste byproducts.

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