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Smart Talk Jan. 19

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Gurley’s Goo goes commercial

It’s been called “Gurley’s Goo” and “God’s Cream.” Now, a concoction dreamed up by a pharmacologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to treat itchy, cracked or burned skin is being sold as Dr. Teatrie’s Omnibalm at USA Drug stores in Central Arkansas.

Dr. Bill Gurley, the head of pharmacokinetics research at UAMS, is perhaps better known for his efforts to persuade the government to ban the sale of ephedra. But for the past 15 years he’s been making up and giving away a cream he developed after he got a terrible sunburn in grad school. The cream helps what he calls “problematic skin areas” that haven’t responded well to other treatments; Gurley, who spends a lot of his free time walking through brushy areas looking for Civil War sites, said “it does a number on chiggers.” The formulation is about 15 percent high-grade tea tree oil, an antibacterial, antifungal agent distilled from the flowers of the Australian plant Melaleuca alternifolia.

UAMS’ Arkansas BioVentures sent UALR Executive MBA student Lydia Carson, who was looking for a product to market, to Gurley. The rest is history; Carson is now president and CEO of BioVentures’ Balm Innovations LLC. A 2-ounce tube of the product sells for $19.99.

A second, scentless variety of Omnibalm will hit the stores soon, Gurley said. He may also develop a veterinary formulation — he said vets who’d tried it had liked it — and as a lotion for bed sores. The latter would require clinical trials. For a free sample, go to www.omnibalm.com.




Mean streets
The National Coalition for the Homeless put Little Rock on its list of the country’s 20 meanest cities again this year, at No. 3, for “criminalizing homelessness.” The following are from the coalition’s explanation last week for Little Rock’s No. 3 ranking, all based on reports from local advocates for the homeless:

• St. Francis House, a daytime homeless center, was forced to reduce its hours and then close in 2005 due to decreased funding. The cutback in hours came as police began cracking down on “professional” panhandling downtown and arrested 41.

• When asked to comment on the closing of St. Francis House, Sharon Priest, a spokesperson for the Downtown Partnership, said that she was “glad” it was gone, but was still not satisfied a soup kitchen continued to operate nearby.

• A state trooper searched and arrested a homeless man. He said he suspected the homeless man was dealing drugs though he had no record of drug offenses. The man spent the night in jail and missed work the next day.

• Two men reported police officers, in separate incidents, had kicked them out of the Little Rock bus station though they held bus tickets.

• At a free public event at Riverfront Park, homeless people were encouraged to take free samples, such as chicken, being distributed by various businesses. However, sheriff’s deputies told homeless people they had to leave immediately or be arrested for loitering.

• A homeless man was denied entrance to a free public tour of the Old Statehouse Museum.




Hurricane survivors to demand help
Buses of Hurricane Katrina survivors will leave Little Rock and other cities on Feb. 8 for Washington, where the survivors will demand more help from lawmakers in the recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, according to the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association, which is organizing the caravan. ACORN is an advocacy group for low- and moderate-income Americans.

New Orleans, Baton Rouge and San Antonio are among the other cities from which buses will leave. The buses will arrive in Washington late Feb. 8. A rally and meetings with lawmakers and other officials will take place Feb. 9.

Any Katrina survivor can take part in the trip for $50. Fundraisers are planned to cover the remaining costs. Anyone who wants to participate should call the ACORN hurricane hotline at 1-800-790-2290, e-mail katrinarelief@acorn.org or contact their local ACORN office.




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