Explore Magazine Volume 3 Issue 2



Medical researchers have known for years that water-soluble fibers (WSF) can reduce cholesterol.

The trick was to "package" such fibers in a form patients could, and would, take.

The slimy, sticky pure form of these fibers is not very appetizing, and people would have to eat enormous amounts of fruits or other foods daily to get beneficial amounts. Even in dry form, the effective amounts would require taking dozens of pills each day.

So Dr. James Cerda, a specialist in gastroenterology and nutrition in the University of Florida College of Medicine, and retired UF chemist Charles Burgin invented ProFibe(TM), a tasteless powder mixture of citrus pectin, guar gum and soy protein that can be mixed into drinks and sprinkled on foods.

Clinical studies by Cerda at the Clinical Research Center of Shands Hospital at UF found that adding 15 grams of grapefruit (citrus) pectin to the daily diet reduced cholesterol levels by an average of 11 percent within four weeks.

ProFibe(TM) can be used in conjunction with diet and exercise to naturally reduce moderately high cholesterol, and in conjunction with cholesterol-lowering medicine to control severe cases.

"This is not a medicine," says Cerda. "It is a natural blend of water-soluble fiber, and it lacks the side effects that sometimes occur with cholesterol-lowering drugs."

Today, CerBurg, the company Cerda and Burgin founded, is selling about 120,000 cans of ProFibe(TM) a year from its South Daytona Beach, Fla. headquarters. Typical monthly use is about three cans at an average of $20.30 per can. UF holds the patent on ProFibe(TM) and has licensed it exclusively to CerBurg.

CerBurg President and CEO Al Burgin, Charles Burgin's son, says the fact that ProFibe(TM) was developed at a major university using rigorous scientific protocols lends it great credibility in the marketplace.

"We've based everything we say about ProFibe(TM) on the research conducted at the university," Al Burgin says. "We don't want to be thought of as some snake oil salesmen."

Indeed, Burgin says, initial results from a study of ProFibe(TM) users indicates the formula is actually exceeding expectations compared to the clinical studies.

"We've had five of 40 subjects tested, and three of the five had noticeable regression in arterial plaque," Burgin says. "The other two didn't show any regression, but they also didn't show any progression, so the ProFibe(TM) seems to be keeping things in check."

Al Burgin calls CerBurg a "virtual" company. All of the manufacturing and distribution is contracted out, keeping costs low. Burgin says CerBurg buys the highest-quality raw materials available and closely monitors manufacturing at a plant in the Midwest.

"The way we are currently structured, we pay only for services rendered by the companies we contract with under non-disclosure agreements," Burgin says. "If we were vertically or horizontally integrated in production, we would not only have to invest millions initially, but would incur the operational expenses associated with ownership of plants and equipment."

ProFibe(TM) is sold via mail order, in health food stores, by request through Publix pharmacies and at selected Kmart, Target, and GNC stores. Burgin says people who are considering trying ProFibe(TM) are advised to discuss it with their doctor.

"Compared to what they hear about drugs, doctors receive very little nutritional training in medical school, so they are often skeptical about natural, nutritional approaches to health," Burgin says. "Our approach is to sell physicians on ProFibe(TM) through their patients. If they see good numbers from patients using ProFibe(TM), they may prescribe it for other patients."

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Everyone knows horse racing is a gamble, but few people realize that some of the longest odds are against young Thoroughbreds being born at all.

Owners of Thoroughbred mares can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to breed their mares with champion stallions like Silver Buck, sire of 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm, and Skip Trial, sire of 1997 Eclipse Award-winner Skip Away.

According to the American Horse Council, Thoroughbred mares are successfully bred only 58 percent of the time, and if the mare doesn't become pregnant or loses the foal, the breeder's investment is lost.

This low birth rate represents a major economic hardship on the $25 billion Thoroughbred horse industry, and since Florida is the nation's second leading Thoroughbred breeding state, much of that hardship is felt in the Sunshine state.

University of Florida animal science Professor Dan Sharp is trying to improve those odds through Equitech Laboratories Inc., a company he formed to transfer his university research on horse fertility to the marketplace.

Based at UF's Sid Martin Biotechnology Development Institute, Equitech is developing three products designed to aid horse reproduction.

The first and most developed of Equitech's products is Progest-Stim(TM), which enhances growth of the horse embryo during the critical first few weeks of pregnancy, when 20 to 25 percent of embryos are lost. Progest-Stim(TM) is currently undergoing U.S. Food and Drug Administration review, and Sharp expects it to be on the market by 2000.

"We have a long history of showing that progesterone production stimulates the uterus to produce a better- developed embryo," Sharp says. "By using this product, we are `stocking the larder.'"

Sharp's studies have found that Progest-Stim(TM) can cause progesterone levels in the uterus to increase dramatically, at times even doubling, leading to bigger embryos that have a better chance of surviving.

"The industry is willing and able to spend a great deal of money to overcome the problem of early embryonic loss, but there is currently no FDA-approved product to combat the problem," Sharp says.

Progest-Stim(TM) is designed to be administered during a regular veterinary examination to determine if a mare is ready for breeding.

Two other products Equitech has in development are designed to aid in the successful mating of mares. The first, called Ovu-Lut(TM), stimulates ovulation so a mare will be physiologically ready to conceive when bred.

"In the wild, stallions are mating every day, but in our controlled breeding environment, the mares are bred once," Sharp says. "This product will allow them to be as ready to conceive as possible."

The third product, BIT-Test(TM), helps breeders and veterinarians determine whether a mare is capable of ovulating and is therefore ready for breeding.

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