12 June 2002

The world`s leading experts on developing drugs from the venom of poisonous creatures, will descend on Heron Island on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef from July 14-19.

Venoms to Drugs conference organiser Professor Paul Alewood said this was the second time the conference was being hosted by The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

"Hosting the conference at Heron Island gives delegates the chance to visit Queensland`s heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, home of venomous Australians like marine cone snails and box jellyfish, and one of just a few mega-diverse environments worldwide," Professor Alewood said

"It also provides an idyllic backdrop for discussing the activity, interactions and commercialisation potential of venoms and their active ingredients.

"Scorpions, snakes, spiders and marine cone snails are just some of the many poisonous creatures found in Queensland biodiverse environment and investigated by scientists attending this conference.

Drugs developed from this field of research are having a major impact on the treatment of diseases of the nervous system and inflammation, including chronic pain."

The conference has attracted a who`s who of drug development such as Professor Baldomero (Toto) Olivera, who is considered by many to be among the fathers of venom research. Along with leading scientists from Australia and abroad, he will discuss the structure and biological mechanism of venom compounds, as well as how to use these molecules as leads for developing new drugs with improved accuracy and fewer side effects.

The IMB actively seeks to translate the knowledge created from its fundamental research programs into practical outcomes with global benefits particularly in the areas of health care, therapeutics, diagnostics and nanotechnologies.

IMB’s research into venom peptides is a working example of this approach, with Xenome, the major sponsor of the conference, being a spin-out company established by IMB scientists to discover and develop drugs from Australian venoms.

Media, for more information please contact Russell Griggs (07 3365 1805) or Helen Weatherley (0421 056 980)