As the name implies, the Amrita Venomics lab is interested in understanding how snake venom exerts its physiological effects, both in terms of the toxic as well as the pharmacological action of the individual venom components. To that end we fractionate venom by chromatographic methods and the resulting fractions are subject to various biochemical assays to detect the presence of particular venom components, according to their enzymatic or biological activities. Once a certain degree of separation and purity has been achieved for a component, it becomes a target for the development of inhibitory or neutralizing agents. Should the component turn out to be novel, its biological activity will be characterized in more depth and the pharmacological potential will be assessed. From those efforts we hope to lay the groundwork for the development of peptide and small molecule based antivenom and for the discovery and use of new venom components.

RESEARCH INTEREST: In India, envenomation by members of the four major venomous snakes species, spectacled cobra (Najanaja), common krait (Bungaruscaeruleus) saw scaled viper (Echiscarinatus) and Russell’s viper (Daboiarusselii,) leads to about 12,000 death per year that are clinically recorded and an estimated number of 46,000 death per year over all. A large proportion of the bites and deaths are thought to go unrecorded because they occur in rural areas among poorer segments of the population where timely and effective antivenom treatments are either not available or too expensive.

Antibody based antivenom preparations have two major sources of variability, variability of the venom source used for immunization and variability in the immune response of the animal to be immunized. Furthermore, antibody based antivenommay also elicit serious immune reactions and complications in the recipient since they are usually derived from a heterologous species.

With this in mind, we decided to develop alternative approaches to antivenomproductionin which individual venom components are first isolated and then individually targeted for inhibition using either random peptide libraries or potential small molecules available.Once good inhibitors have been developed for the relevant toxin components, these can then be combined and tested for their ability to neutralize the venom in in vivo models.

CURRENT INTERESTS

  • Understanding the mechanism of action of venom components
  • Finding peptides that can interact with and inhibit toxic venom components
  • Finding small molecules that can activate or inhibit functional components of snake venom