Shaffer: Durham inventor touts goo's power to restore injured skin

jshaffer@newsobserver.comNovember 11, 2012 

— To demonstrate his new liquid bandage, Jerry Chesson twists the lid off a brown bottle and pours a few drops into a cup of water, then dips a Q-tip into the mix and draws out a long trail of goo.

He promises that the stuff, which smells of model airplane glue, will cure scrapes, burns and irritation without leaving a scar. Sitting behind his desk at Chesson Labs, he raises the cotton swab and asks, “Have you got a boo-boo?”

I hold up a nick on my left thumb, but before I can speak, Chesson is slathering his Nuvaderm over my injured digit. It stings for a second, then turns shiny like the gloss on a manicured fingernail.

“It’s stronger than skin,” Chesson tells me. “It’s a moisture barrier, but not a vapor barrier. It’ll breathe. You can put it on airplane wings to eliminate de-icing. You get stung by a bee, put it on and the pain goes away immediately.”

This bottled innovation, the product of Chesson’s small R&D company at the corner of Ellis Road and Pettigrew Street, aims to become the nation’s go-to remedy for patching up wounded skin – a global market approaching $17 billion.

Chesson got clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market Nuvaderm for minor cuts and scuffs, and he’s waiting on the FDA’s go-ahead to tackle toenail fungus.

But the funny thing about Chesson’s miracle polymer is it started out as a product for pressure-treated wood. The only reason he considered rubbing it on skin was a bad case of poison ivy, which flared up like the stings of a 1,000 fire ants while Chesson was driving 80 mph down the highway.

“If you’d have told me you had a butter knife, and you were going to operate right away,” Chesson recalled, “I’d have considered letting you.”

But instead of a butter knife, Chesson reached for his polymer, rubbing it over both arms. Pain gone. Itching gone. Bleeding stopped.

Chesson had his accidental bandage tested at Nelson Labs in Utah. It’s not a carcinogen. It’s non-allergenic.

“It was as safe as Vaseline,” he said.

He gave to his barber, who’d accidentally shot himself in the hand with a 9mm pistol. Pain gone.

He rubbed it on a cat whose neck had been gouged out by the bite of a brown recluse spider. The skin grew back with white and fluffy fur.

“I’ve been using it for eight years,” he raved.

Chesson, 70, doesn’t have a chemistry background. He studied history at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount. He once ran Southeastern Shelter Fireproofing and tinkered with scientific experiments as a side line. What he does have, though, is nearly $5 million in financing, plus a marketing and distribution agreement.

“I fix things,” said Chesson. “I don’t say no. I don’t say can’t.”

There’s not enough chemistry rolling around in my brain to spot the carbon in a lump of coal. But I am a trained skeptic, so I asked Chesson what kind of calls I’ll get from biochemists and medical researchers when I tout his miracle goo.

“Tell them come see me,” he said.

Chesson cautions against trying Nuvaderm for jock itch. It’ll work, but only after exacting a payment of several uncomfortable seconds.

Meanwhile, the nick on my thumb is still there, but it’s smaller. Much smaller.

jshaffer@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4818

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