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The bite that heals: New antibiotics with help from venomous animals

Prof. Gilles van Wezel and Prof. Mike Richardson of the Institute of Biology Leiden received €1.4 million to find new antibiotics.

Van Wezel and Richardson received a Technology Area (TA)-premium of €1.4 million from the Topsector Chemistry (TKI-NCI) for their project “Synthetic Biology and Genomics Platform for New-to-Nature Bioactive Peptides”. Together with partners from, LUMC, Groningen University, Naturalis and the biotech industry, the professors will examine the venom of snakes, scorpions and other animals as underexplored sources of antibiotics.

New antibiotics needed

New antibiotics are desperately needed, because many pathogens have become insensitive to them, with resistance existing against almost all antibiotics. Big pharmaceutical companies have abandoned or cut back antibiotic research and development, now the number of substances that can be produced under standard conditions is becoming exhausted.

Potential of venom

Animals produce a large variety of antimicrobial peptides that play an important role in natural innate immunity and controlling microbial infections. Van Wezel, Richardson and partners will identify peptides with antimicrobial activity in the venoms of snakes, scorpions and other animals, to obtain candidate drugs. These will then be synthesized, expressed, modified and validated to obtain new-to-nature peptide antibiotics for therapeutic and nutritional use to combat infectious diseases.


Supporting private partners include larger pharma (Dupont), SME (BaseClear, Enzypep, MADAM Therapeutics and Hitexacoat) and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center.


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