Venoms database launched to aid drug discovery: What’s your poison?

Scientists create open access database to help facilitate the search for animal venom-based therapies

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Joseph D Romano and Nicholas P Tatonetti from Columbia University Medical Center (NY, USA) have this week unveiled VenomKB, a new publicly accessible knowledge base and website that aims to act as a repository for emerging and putative venom therapies.

Although they may largely evoke fear among the general public, in the scientific community venomous animals are looked upon more kindly since they are widely regarded as a rich and important source of original ligands of potential therapeutic use and molecular tools that may be used to dissect the function and understand the role of key physiological receptors.

In order to systematically explore the potential therapeutic uses of venom compounds, computational techniques are used. To facilitate computational analysis, Romano and Tatonetti set up VenomKB, a comprehensive resource describing the clinical effects of venoms.

VenomKB summarizes the results of 5,117 studies in the medical literature describing the use of venom toxins as painkillers and as treatments for diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart failure. Presently, VenomKB consists of three database tables: (1) Manually curated records of putative venom therapies supported by scientific literature, (2) automatically parsed MEDLINE articles describing compounds that may be venom derived, and their effects on the human body, and (3) automatically retrieved records from the new Semantic Medline resource that describe the effects of venom compounds on mammalian anatomy. Data from VenomKB may be selectively retrieved in a variety of popular data formats, are open-source, and are to be continually updated as venom therapies become better understood.

Although, to date, modern medicine makes use of only a small fraction of the animal venoms documented, the researchers hope that the catalog will drive the discovery of new compounds and medical treatments and help the scientific community tap into the therapeutic potential of venom compounds.

In a press release from Columbia University Medical Center, Nicholas Tatonetti, leader of the study, commented that “with this list we can take stock of what we know about venoms and their therapeutic effects”.


Data Scientists Create World’s First Therapeutic Venom Database:

Romano JD, Tatonetti NP. Data Scientists Create World’s First Therapeutic Venom Database. Scientific Data 2, 150065 (2015).

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