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National Natural Toxins Research Center receives $2.46 million in additional funding

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            KINGSVILLE (June 3, 2019) — The National Natural Toxins Research Center (NNTRC) at Texas A&M University-Kingsville received a renewal of funding from the National Institutes of Health to the tune of $2.46 million over the next five years. The NNTRC continues to be the only federally funded viper resource center in the United States.


            “Since the initiation of this grant in 2003, the NNTRC has served as the only federally funded viper resource center in the country, playing a critical role as a provider of high quality single-source venoms and snake-related research materials to national and international biomedical and biological research programs,” said Dr. Elda Sanchez, center director and grant PI.


            “The goal of the NNTRC is to provide native venom and purified venom components, recombinant venom proteins and specialized venom research services of the highest quality to support snake venom-related research in the U.S. and abroad,” she added.


            According to The World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that more than five million people are bitten by snakes each year, with 2.7 million cases of envenomings. A bite from a venomous snake can result in paralysis, potentially fatal bleeding disorders, irreversible kidney failure and tissue damage that can lead to limb amputation. The WHO has deemed snake envenoming as a Neglected Tropical Disease and includes snake antivenoms on their list of essential medicines.


           “There is more interest and more funding that are being dedicated to help alleviate the suffering that occurs as a result of snakebites.


            “Fields of both venom and antivenom research are absolutely dependent on access to reliable and reproducible resources such as those provided by the NNTRC. The NNTRC serves as s unique resource that provides research-grade venoms, toxins and specialized research services in the US and abroad,” Sanchez said.


            “The NNTRC plays a critical role in supporting basic, translational and clinical research that is contributing to the improvements in the health of individuals worldwide,” she added.


            Sanchez said this grant provides new faculty interested in the field of toxinology with extraordinary professional opportunities. “Since the last five-year cycle, the NNTRC, College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of Sponsored Research has helped recruit two new assistant professors who have backgrounds in toxinology and have contributed to the field.


            “The NNTRC provides the mentoring, infrastructure and support to allow these professors to obtain grants that are in line with the mission of the program,” Sanchez added. “Dr. Montamas Suntravat currently has a NIH grant that will determine how specific venom molecules play a role in the pathology of snakebite. Dr. Jacob Galan has just submitted a grant that will help determine toxicity scores on venom molecules in order to be able to produce more effective antivenom.”


            “Venoms in general and snake venoms in particular have been of great interest to researchers because of their rich repertoire of highly evolved bioactive molecules, many of them targeted with exquisite specificity to highly functional cell surface receptors,” she said. “Snake venoms have provided molecular probes that have been used to decipher complex physiological and pathophysiological processes and have served as the starting point for the development of novel classes of drugs.


            “In addition, antibody-based antivenoms, whose production and profiling depends on well-characterized venoms, serves as the mainstay in the treatment of both human and veterinary snakebite,” Sanchez said.


            Sanchez said it takes the hard work of committed individuals to make the NNTRC successful, from the personnel in the Office of Sponsored Research to the team at the center. “Many of the key players have been the students, both undergraduate and graduate, dedicated faculty, staff and administration. We also have many collaborators both nationally and internationally that provide new research technologies and ideas.”


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