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10 October, 2018 - 12:55 By Kate Sweeney

Cambridge antibody antidote to snake venom progressing well

Cambridge technology is helping to progress  human antibodies that neutralise elements of black mamba snake toxin in an in vivo model.

IONTAS in Cambridge, a leader in the discovery and optimisation of fully human antibodies, is at the heart of the initiative. It has announced a collaborative paper published in Nature Communications with the Technical University of Denmark and the Instituto Clodomiro Picado of the University of Costa Rica describing the development of a panel of the antibodies.

Each year, around two million people fall victim to snakebite envenoming, which leads to more than 100,000 deaths and approximately 400,000 cases of severe sequalae, such as amputation. 

Particularly, impoverished victims living in snake-infested areas of the tropics are at risk, and many bites are left untreated due to the unavailability of safe and effective antivenoms.

Snakebite envenoming has recently been introduced on the World Health Organisation’s list of neglected tropical diseases due to its high disease burden.

The “proof of concept” research described in Nature Communications identified key components, including dendrotoxins, in the black mamba’s venom which contribute to venom toxicity.  Human antibodies were generated to these dendrotoxins using IONTAS Phage Display Technology and cocktails of IgG-formatted human antibodies were then shown to protect mice from dendrotoxin-mediated neurotoxicity in vivo.

Dr John McCafferty, founder and CEO of IONTAS says: “Snake envenomation is a particular burden among the world’s poorest people and the approach to treatment based on poorly defined animal serum has not changed in decades. 

“IONTAS was motivated to contribute our resources and experience in recombinant antibody technology towards this initial proof-of-concept study. We hope that this report will help encourage funders to support the scientific community and advance the treatment of snakebites using modern antibody engineering methods. 

“Although many challenges remain in the development of safe, efficacious and cost-effective drug cocktails, it is an achievable goal with the ultimate reward of seeing science help improve human lives.”

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