Business Lexington July 29, 2005
Blackberries by Prescription?
Its not just about jam anymore
A new Kentucky company is exploring the use of the blackberry in products ranging from over-the-counter cosmetics to potential agents in the fight against cancer.
"From all the research we've seen, there is not another product like this on the market, not even a dietary supplement," said Paige Shumate Short, president and founder of Four Tigers, LLC, which is investigating the possible nutraceutical and medical applications of the blackberry.
Previous research has indicated that some compounds present in blackberries may have anti-cancer and anti- inflammatory properties. Short, the daughter of Windstone Farms founder, Wayne Shumate, said she learned about the potential health benefits while researching the fruit in preparation for its official designation as the state fruit of Kentucky.
"But no one had really pursued it," said Short, who has experience in new product development as president of Kentucky Textiles Technology, a division of Kentucky Textiles.
The company's name, Four Tigers, which historically refers to the manufacturing strength of Asian exporters Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, also communicates the strength Short sees in the experts behind the new company. The team helping Four Tigers formulate its product concepts includes U.K. researchers Dr. Vincent Gallicchio, Dr. Russell Mumper, Windstone Farms owners, Shumate and Billy Gatton Jones, Meridian Communications owner Mary Ellen Slone and Dean Harvey of UK's Von Allman Center for Entrepreneurship.
The first applications planned include an over-the-counter sunscreen and moisturizer. Four Tigers is also developing a blackberry dietary supplement that could help against colon cancer and a variety of other gastrointestinal disorders. To avoid the problems that some patients, particularly those with diverticultitis, have with blackberry seeds, the fruit will be pureed and freeze-dried into powder form, Short said.
The company is also pursuing proof of concept studies into the potential medical uses of extracts, both as an oral gel and for in-vitro therapy, in the initial steps toward FDA approval.
It plans to present its first over-the-counter prototypes in August to Chattanooga based Chattam Inc., a manufacturing company whose product portfolio includes the Gold Bond, Dexatrim and Bull Frog brands.
"Who knows what well make of it?" said Short. "I have no clue. But, I think (the market) will tell us because were the first to get there."
With nutraceutical sales topping 18 billion per year and the high demand for products to treat, gastrointestinal disorders like as irritable bowel syndrome Short believes that Four Tigers products could have great market potential, and that would be great news for Kentucky farmers considering blackberries as an alternate crop to tobacco. It also could write an interesting new chapter on the blackberries place in Kentucky's history and its economy.
"To be around all the way from pioneer days to cancer research," said Short. "It really does tell a good story."
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