Venomtech’s 9th birthday – Founder’s blog

A ninth birthday is not a traditional milestone but in an industry where less than 10% survive every year, it is worth celebrating. It’s also a good time to reflect on the past year or two, as my last birthday blog was in 2017. Crossing from the ninth to tenth year is quite a milestone as I was a drug discovery scientist at Pfizer for a little over ten years and suddenly Venomtech looks like it will outlast my large pharma employment.

As we move through 2019 our first collaborative PhD Students with Canterbury Christ Church and Reading Universities are writing up their studies. This is part of a growing strategy to generate more data on how our venoms work in drug discovery mechanisms. We also have several MSc students – more this year than ever before. This is a great opportunity for them to not only work on industrial projects, but also to produce valuable data for Venomtech.

In other news, along with an excellent team of collaborators, we have a disruptive paper in preprint, where we have helped to unpick the microbiome living in the venom glands of snakes, spiders and scorpions. This challenges the view that many bite wounds get secondary infections; these could be primary infections from the envenomation. These bacteria contain antibiotic resistance mechanisms that help them survive in the hostile environment on the venom gland. This is a great example of the turnaround in approach to venom research. Many of the venom-derived drugs currently on the market were inspired by what we know about venom evolution through use, whereas the discovery of the venom microbiome has come from the drug discovery investigation of antimicrobial peptides. Discovery of these peptides prompted the question of how did they evolve and therefore delivered information back to the study of venom evolution and utility.

In 2017 I wrote about the surprising need to be media savvy and the unusual subjects we are asked to comment on by the media. This has continued and in our birthday week I am talking live on KMTV about our Venom Chilli Sauce. This is another thing that I never expected to be doing. But since its launch on Halloween 2018, our Venom Chilli Sauce, marketed through our new brand Steve’s Scientific Sauce, has gone from strength to strength and is selling out as fast as we can make it.

Our first cosmetic active peptide, SensAmone P5, developed with our partners at Mibelle Biochemistry, has now been included in several final products from across the globe. This includes North America, Europe and South Africa. The SensAmone P5 peptide blocks TrpV1 to soothe sensitive skin. It is found in the leathery sea anemone, however the active site modelling in a small peptide was Venomtech’s work not the anemone’s.

Going forward into our tenth year will see further growth in international sales for the pharmaceutical business. We’ve now got a map on our news page showing the countries we have shipped to, from Mexico through to Europe, India and Japan, all the way around the world to Australia. We also expect a further blossoming of our cosmetic business and continued growth in crop protection and pest control, which is currently a sprouting seedling.