EU consortium creates large toxin database for drug discovery

A European consortium has created what it claims is the world's largest database of toxins. The resource, which is the result of a large sampling and bioinformatic analysis program, is now set to be applied to the discovery of drugs against cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes.

Venomics, the European Commission-funded consortium behind the database, took samples from 203 species of poisonous creatures for the database. Having extracted venom from species such as snakes, sea anemones and blue octopuses during expeditions to French Guiana, Mayotte, Polynesia and other locations, the team turned to technology to make the most of the samples. Sistemas Genomicos, a Spanish genetic testing lab and member of the consortium, took charge of this aspect of the program.

"The analysis has been a challenge because in the smallest species it was very hard to extract the venom. We have adjusted our methods with the new technology," Sistemas Genomicos Project Director Rebeca Miñambres said at a press conference attended by Agencia EFE. "The main achievement has been to show that the use of these new omics technologies eliminates much of the complexity of the process and also the time, because using classic procedures would have taken us years."

By applying next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics to the task of learning what peptides make up the venoms, the consortium was able to build a database of more than 25,000 toxin sequences. The next step is to mine this resource. Venomics is interested in working with biopharma partners on this aspect of the program. Denmark's Zealand Pharma is already involved. The idea is to have drug developers screen the database of peptides against molecular targets in the hope of identifying promising therapeutic leads.

- read the EFE article