TROPICAL PHARMACOLOGY LAB
TROPICAL PHARMACOLOGY MANIFESTO
Science for society. At the Tropical Pharmacology Lab we employ biotechnology to help solve some of the most pressing health challenges affecting tropical parts of the world. Particularly, we focus on development of toxin targeting antibodies against animal venoms using phage display technology, oligoclonal CHO cell expression, and toxicovenomics. Also, we use animal venoms to explore potential therapeutic benefits of selected toxins against neglected tropical diseases.
Our flagship project aims at developing the world’s first recombinant snakebite antivenoms based on mixtures of human antibodies. Each year, more than 5 million people worldwide are affected by snakebite, leading to 150,000 deaths and approximately 3 times as many amputations. The only current treatment against snakebite envenoming consists of animal-derived antiserum containing toxin targeting antibodies. These antisera are produced by immunization, often requiring 1-1.5 years of repeated administration of venom to the immunized animal. Although such antisera are effective in neutralizing venoms, they suffer from the drawbacks of being expensive and immunogenic due to their heterologous (non-human) nature. Moreover, the content of therapeutically active antibodies in antisera is estimated to be <10%, since animal sera will contain antibodies against all pathogens and immunogens that the immunized animals have experienced in its lifetime.
In contrast to animal-derived antisera, a recombinant snakebite antivenom based on mixtures of human antibodies is compatible with the human immune system, and the antivenom can be designed to only target medically relevant venom toxins, bringing the content of therapeutically active antibodies up to 100%. Additionally, such an antivenom can be produced by fermentation. Recombinant human antivenoms therefore represent safer, more efficacious, and cost-effective treatment options against snakebite, as well as other animal envenomings.
FROM THE TROPICS TO THE LAB
We study toxins in relation to venom composition and toxic pharmacological effects in prey or victims guiding antivenom development by identifying what toxins are medically most relevant in complex venoms and toxin mixtures.
We employ phage display technology to identify monoclonal human and camelid antibodies against toxins. It is a powerful discovery method, where specific antibodies can be selected among billions of candidates based on their affinity.
High-density peptide microarrays
We employ high-density peptide microarray technology to study epitope-paratope interactions between venom toxins and antivenom antibodies to understand cross-reactivity of antivenoms across toxin families and snake species.