Quo vadis venomics?

Calvete, Juan J.


Evolutionary and Translational Venomics Lab

Instituto de Biomedicina de Valencia, CSIC

Valencia, Spain

The primary function of venom in snake ecology is prey subjugation, with defensive deployment of venom typically considered a secondary function. Defensive bites occur as the result of an interaction between a human and a snake that feels threatened. This ecological problem claims over 100,000 human lives annually worldwide, and a much higher incidence of permanent physical and mental co-morbidities that affect not only the victims but often their entire families. Conceptual frameworks from ecology and evolutionary biology can enter into a mutually enlightening relationship with clinical toxinology, providing the knowledge gathered from -omics technologies, such as “venomics” and “antivenomics” is combined with evolutionary evidence to deliver ecological explanations free of anthropocentric bias. On the other hand, deep knowledge of the identity and taxonomic distribution of the relevant toxins in the context of prey capture and human envenoming, are both key for improving our understanding of both the underlying pharmacology and how to generate effective antidotes with broad neutralisation paraspecificity. The thesis advocated in this talk is that integration and contextualisation of complementary evolutionary, ecological, molecular and clinical toxinological information represents a powerful holistic approach to learn from Nature how to refurbish current-generation antivenoms to tackle the pressing need for effective antidotes.