Venom from one of the world’s deadliest snakes is being developed as a new drug to treat heart failure

A venom compound from one of the world’s deadliest snakes, the Taipan, is being developed by Brisbane biotechnology company ElaCor, as a new drug to treat heart failure.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) claims the lives of over 3,000 Australians each year with a further 300,000 people affected by the disease.

The project’s principal researcher, University of Queensland’s (UQ) Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s (IMB) Professor Paul Alewood, said current treatments for CHF had serious side effects and rarely combated the progression of the disease.

“The team has isolated a unique set of active molecules from Taipan venom and research shows they are extremely effective at easing the heart’s workload,” he said.

“Not only are these molecules very effective, tests have shown that they are also extremely stable, which is an attractive feature for new drugs.

“The human body naturally produces similar types of molecules in response to heart failure but these break down too quickly to have a lasting effect, making them inappropriate as a long term treatment,” he said.

CHF is an often-fatal disease in which the heart is weakened and lacks the strength to adequately pump blood around the body.

ElaCor was recently awarded a $250,000 AusIndustry Biotechnology Innovation Fund Grant enabling optimisation of the molecules to develop a superior drug candidate to treat the multiple symptoms of CHF.

Established by IMBcom, the commercialisation company for UQ’s IMB, in collaboration with the Baker Heart Research Institute (BHRI) in Melbourne, ElaCor is the result of an extensive research collaboration between Professor Alewood and Associate Professor Geoff Head from the BHRI.

The BHRI’s Head of Commercialisation Ms Tina Rankovic said ElaCor provided a unique opportunity to leverage the skills and synergies of two prestigious Australian research organisations.

“By combining the research expertise from these groups we hope to advance discovery in one of medicine’s greatest remaining challenges – preventing heart failure.”

IMBcom CEO Dr Peter Isdale said he was extremely pleased with the development of ElaCor and was gratified the Australian Government remained committed to the development and excellence of Australian science and innovation, by supporting the science of today for the business of tomorrow.

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