Heart attack treatment using K’gari funnel-web spider venom one step closer to human trial

The Fraser Island funnel-web is one of the world’s most deadly spiders.(Supplied: University of Queensland)

A drug being developed using venom from the world’s deadliest spider to prevent damage caused by a heart attack or stroke will progress to clinical trials. 

Key points:

  • The drug could be used to treat millions of people every year 
  • Researchers hope the drug will be made available to first responders in the future
  • Human trials are expected to begin about the end of 2023

Researchers from the University of Queensland are using a molecule from the venom of the K’gari (Fraser Island) funnel-web spider to develop the first drug of its kind in clinical use.

The research will now be able to progress to clinical trials after UQ’s commercialisation company UniQuest licensed the drug candidate, IB001, to Brisbane startup company Infensa Bioscience.

UQ Principal Research Fellow and Infensa chief executive associate professor Mark Smythe said the heart could not regenerate muscle cells that died during a heart attack.

“IB001 blocks the signals that cause heart cells to die, and when given immediately to heart attack victims could reduce damage to the heart and significantly improve outcomes for people with heart disease, particularly in rural and remote regions,” he said.

“This funding will provide the cash to translate the molecule from animal studies from preclinical experiments to humans in disease patients on phase two, and we can look at the molecule works in those patients.

Access for first responders

Researchers are hoping the drug could one day be available for first responders to administer.

Professor King said there were effectively no drugs that could immediately protect the brain from a stroke. 

“There is one clot-busting drug for stroke but it can only be given up to four hours after stroke onset,” he said.

“The problem is when a paramedic finds a person having a stroke, they don’t know which type it is, and therefore they can’t give that drug.”

He said the patient had to wait to get to the hospital, which could “take hours”, especially in a regional area.

“We think that will have a real impact on the ultimate severity of the stroke and the quality of life of the patient afterwards.”

Phase I clinical trials as a heart attack treatment are expected to start in Queensland next year, with human trials expected to commence about the end of 2023.

Source: SBS News