Current ‘venom’ drugs

So after the previous section that allowed us to understand what venoms are and how they work, we can now see the drugs by which they have developed into. If venom affects biological processes then it stands to reason that they can also affect biological pathways altered by diseases. This is what scientists have realised, by identifying the active compounds in venom that cause the alteration of the biological systems, then they can use it to target diseases and restrict/ alter their processes within the body.

There are a number of research institutions and pharmaceutical laboratories that are working to try and bring these venoms to the drugs market, either by characterization of these toxins or by medical research – here is a very brief list of some of these companies/ labs that provide excellent information:





There are hundred more of these research project that are on going. The aim of some of the research, such as that of ‘Venomics’ is to characterise all potential venom peptides so that to make it easier for drugs development in the future. Whilst other companies such as Kineta are at the forefront of  drug development using venoms.

This page will highlight some of the current venom drugs that are out on the market currently.

*Please note older posts appear at the bottom of the page*



Brazilian pit viper - Bothrops jararaca (image:  Antonio Sebben)

Brazilian pit viper – Bothrops jararaca (image: Antonio Sebben)

Capoten (Captopril) is a drug derived from the venom of the Brazilian pit viper (Bothrops jararaca). It aids with hypertension (high blood pressure) and was one of the first venom derived drugs on the pharmaceutical market. The drug is developed from a bradykinin-potentiating peptide that inhibits the production of Angiotensin-II protein; essentially the drug stops the production of Angiotensin-II which controls the dilation and constriction of blood vessels and arteries. The regulation of Angiotensin-II allows for capillaries to return to their normal pressure levels.

This drug generates annual sales of around $1 billion USD!

(Last updated 29/11/13)


Fernandez, J.H., Neshich, G. and Camargo, A.C.M. (2004) Using bradykininpotentiating peptide structures to develop new antihypertensive drugs. Genet. Mol. Res. 3, 554–563.
Rocha e Silva, M., Beraldo, W.T. and Rosenfeld, G. (1949) Bradykinin, a hypotensive and a smooth muscle stimulating factor released from plasma globulin by snake venom and by trypsin. Am. J. Physiol. 156, 261–270.



Prialt (Ziconotide) drug and chemical compound (image: Popular science)

Prialt (Ziconotide)- (image: Popular science)

Prialt (Ziconotide) was the first drug that was developed from a neurotoxic venom, that acts on the nervous system. It was developed from the cone snail (Conus magnus) x-conotoxin M-VII-A peptide, which acts to block calcium (Ca2+) ion channels of neurones. The drug is used as an analgesic to treat chronic pain and can be administered orally or intravenously allowing it to act quickly and effectively at the source of pain.

With this being the first drug developed from the notoriously potent neurotoxin there has been an increase in research into these type of venom drugs; some of the research is highlighted on the future ‘venom’ drugs page.

(Last updated 30/11/13)


McIntosh, M., Cruz, L.J., Hunkapiller, M.W., Gray, W.R. and Olivera, B.M. (1982) Isolation and structure of a peptide toxin from the marine snail Conus magus. Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 218, 329–334.
Clark, A. M. (1996). Natural products as a resource for new drugs. Pharma. Res. 13 (8), 1133-1141.



Gila monster - Helodema suspectum (image:Archive)

Gila monsterHelodema suspectum (image:Archive)

A drug derived from the Gila monster (Helodema suspectum), which is a venomous lizard native to southwestern USA and Northwest Mexico. The drug aids with type-II diabetes. A protein from the venom named Extendin-4, mimics and acts similar to a glucagon-like peptide; which regulates the production of insulin to control the carbohydrate and fat metabolism levels within the body.

People with diabetes cannot control this hormone by themselves; what Exanatide does that is different from conventional insulin controlling methods, is that it regulates insulin levels for longer periods than normal, thus the drug does not have to be taken as regularly.

(Last updated 1/12/13)


Triplitt, C. & Chiquette, E. (2006). Exenatide: from the Gila monster to the pharmacy. Jour. of Amer. Pharma. Asso. 46 (1), 44-52.


Some other drugs that have been created:

– Integrilin® (eptifibatide) from Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc; a KGD peptide from rattlesnake venom as anticoagulant.

Aggrastat® (tirofiban) from Merck Co, Inc; a RGD peptide analogue from viper venom anticoagulants to treat angina.

Keep up to date with this blog to find out more information about these current drugs; or visit the webpages of the pharmaceutical companies that have developed them.

(Last update 23/02/15)


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