Amber Boutiette, a University of Maine graduate and co-founder of Marin Skincare, holds a lobster. The company has developed and is selling a skin cream that contains proteins from a lobster that help relieve itchy skin. Credit: Courtesy of Marin Skincare

PORTLAND, Maine — Patrick Breeding and his partner developed a cream to fight dry skin from lobster waste out of necessity.

He and girlfriend Amber Boutiette were bioengineering graduate students at the University of Maine studying ways to use lobster byproducts, the parts that are tossed away. At the same time Boutiette was unable to find a product that relieved her eczema, a condition that makes skin red and itchy.

The duo discovered a protein in a lobster circulatory fluid that helps the crustacean heal wounds, developed the cream and last November formed Marin Skincare to sell it. The initial batch of the cream sold out in two months, Breeding said.

The company, which started up last November, has an office in the New England Ocean Cluster, a waterfront business incubator in Portland that hopes to attract similar innovators to grow the so-called ocean “blue economy” in Maine.

“This circulatory fluid is literally going right down the drain, so for lobster processors it’s wasted,” Breeding told the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning during a video tour of the cluster. “It’s creating this completely new stream of revenue for lobster processors.”

Marin is partnering with Luke’s Lobster to collect the protein. Breeding said it doesn’t affect the quality of the meat.

Patrick Arnold, co-founder and CEO of the cluster, said the co-working space is based on an Icelandic concept for waterfront business incubation based in Reykjavik. Iceland’s ocean cluster already has created byproducts from cod worth 200 percent more than the cod fishery itself, he said.

But the pandemic put the New England Ocean Cluster’s full opening on hold. The 8,500-square-foot facility currently has several of its 20 offices occupied, including by Bristol Seafood, the University of Southern Maine and the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs.

The cluster can help students get internships and co-op opportunities to help them prepare for changes in the blue economy in the next decade, University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings said, including changes in trade routes that will allow ocean access across the top of Russia and Canada.

“Portland will become the first major port along the North Atlantic within the American geography,” Cummings said. “And that changes our opportunities.” He wants graduates to have connections in place in Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden to take advantage of those.