EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The easily overlooked AkPharma plant and offices on Old Egg Harbor Road should have a historic plaque reading: “Lactaid was first manufactured here."
The facility also brought the world another tablet, Beano, which reduces flatulence for those taking it with foods such as baked beans and provides comic relief for everyone else.
Alan Kligerman, the president and CEO, said Lactaid was sold to Johnson & Johnson in 1991 and Beano was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline a decade later.
Today AkPharma is focused on research and development, but still manufactures one product — Prelief, which when added to coffee takes the acid out of it and provides calcium, a nutrient coffee drinkers lose. From a high of 90 employees when it was making Lactaid, the company now has 22 employees.
Kligerman, 81, sees the company’s future in potential medical uses for the active ingredient of Prelief.
The main customers for Prelief are women with interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, whose pain may be aggravated by the acid in foods such as coffee, tomato sauce and wine, said Kligerman, of the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township.
When he learned of the success such women were having with Prelief, he suspected that the active ingredient — calcium glycerophosphate, or CGP — was doing more than just removing food acid.
Preliminary studies suggested it was having an effect on the bladder cell walls, he said, so he commissioned studies confirming the bladder effects and also showing promising benefits of applying the compound to skin.
That convinced Kligerman to pursue research into uses on skin wounds, gums and nasal passages. Three years ago he funded a clinical study — led by Dr. Alvin Ong of the Rothman Institute in the township and Richard Kathrins, CEO of the Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation in Galloway Township — on the application of a calcium glycerophosphate preparation to wounds.
The study was conducted on 20 patients who were getting both knees replaced, with the CGP preparation applied to the surgical incision on one knee and a preparation without CGP to the other.
The functional sealing of the incision and its cosmetic appearance were then evaluated by the two orthopedic surgeons who performed the operations and by two plastic surgeons reviewing photos taken daily. The doctors didn’t know which knees were treated with the active ingredient.
A report on the trial, published this month in the Journal of Wound Care, said the treated knees showed less swelling and inflammation, particularly in the first two weeks when the incisions were closing. The overall assessment of CGP-treated wounds was significantly better.
“The results of this study demonstrate that topical CGP application might speed wound healing,” the report said.
That’s one promising area of further investigation for AkPhama, since quick closing of a wound helps prevent infection and currently no dressing to promote that is used in standard care.
“We’re delighted by the results but not surprised,” Kligerman said. “We knew CGP did it, we just wanted to prove it in a formal setting.”
What’s more, he said there is evidence that the compound will be effective in treating other parts of the body as well.
“In all cases, the platform of biochemistry is the same, whether in upper respiratory treatment where it has tremendous promise, or gums, where it also has tremendous promise, and more than that,” Kligerman said.
He said more scar and respiratory studies will come next, and then investigations into possible applications the company isn’t ready to disclose.
“We have good intellectual property protection on these uses of this extremely simple and safe molecule,” Kligerman said.
Such product development is a long way from the original Kligerman Dairy founded in 1918 in Atlantic City.
“This is thrilling to a kid who would go into a store and if they put two quarts of Kligerman milk in the dairy case they were doing him the biggest favor in the world,” he said.
The company today also has a pet milk called CatSip, produced and packaged in a Western dairy and distributed from there and from the Egg Harbor Township plant. CatSip is a fortified milk that is digestible by adult cats and dogs, which can be lactose intolerant, he said.
Even after working for 61 years, Kligerman said he’s still fired up by the creative potential of what has become a research and development firm.
“I’m probably the only member of the family who had fun in the dairy business,” he said.
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