March 2, 2024

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Clinical Trials for Potentially Life-Saving Drug Derived from Deadly Australian Spider Venom

Clinical Trials for Potentially Life-Saving Drug Derived from Deadly Australian Spider Venom



Clinical Trials for Potentially Life-Saving Drug Derived from Deadly Australian Spider Venom

A breakthrough in the journey toward a drug capable of preventing heart attacks and ischemic strokes, and protecting cells from potential lethal damage, has been achieved through clinical trials involving the venom of the deadly Australian funnel-web spider known as K’gari funnel-web spider.

Following the successful testing of the Hi1a molecule, derived from the venom, on rodent models simulating real-world treatment scenarios, Hi1a demonstrated its ability to protect cells from damage throughout the entire phase of a heart attack.

This research builds upon the long-term efforts of Associate Professor Nathan Palpant and Professor Glenn King from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland.

Previous studies by the team revealed how Hi1a blocks acid-sensing ion channels in the heart, preventing the transmission of signals that lead to cell death. Additionally, the researchers found that Hi1a could protect cells in the brain, significantly reducing damage caused by strokes.

The latest study indicates that Hi1a performs as well as the benchmark heart protection drug, Carvedilol, in all parameters related to organ structure and function.

While research on Carvedilol has been ongoing for decades, no drugs are currently available for clinical use to prevent cell damage caused by heart attacks. Palpant stated, “The research confirms that the efficacy of Hi1a in protecting the heart is comparable to the only heart protection drug that has entered phase 3 clinical trials, but that drug was ultimately shelved due to side effects. These tests are crucial in helping us understand how Hi1a can be therapeutically effective—specifically, at which stage of a heart attack it can be used and what the appropriate dosage should be.”

Researchers identified the cell-shielding mechanism of Hi1a in 2021, although they have been studying spider venom for over a decade. This unique molecule comes from the venom of the funnel-web spider Hadronyche infensa, one of at least 40 species of funnel-web spiders. Despite being widespread in Queensland and New South Wales, this particular species on K’gari Island (formerly Fraser Island) has been isolated from the mainland coast for approximately 20,000 years. Consequently, its venom composition differs from other spider venoms and is said to be six times stronger than that of its famous relative, the Sydney funnel-web spider, responsible for at least 13 deaths before the use of antivenom.

The indigenous Butchulla people of K’gari Island refer to this spider as “mudjar nhiling guran” or “long-toothed spider.” Despite its fearsome reputation, this solitary spider is rarely encountered. However, the island funnel-web spider often resides in dense forests, making it easier for researchers to locate.

Glenn King received the 2023 Prime Minister’s Innovation Prize for developing the world’s first insecticide based on spider venom. He is excited about the progress in safe research, bringing the candidate drug closer to clinical trials.

“Tests and safety studies from independent contract research organizations confirm that Hi1a is an effective and safe therapeutic drug,” said King. “Hi1a can prevent cell death due to lack of oxygen, thereby reducing damage to the heart and brain during heart attacks and strokes.”

Although no similar drugs have passed safety trials so far, researchers believe Hi1a has the potential to become the first of its kind.

Palpant noted, “Importantly, we found that Hi1a only interacts with cells in the injured area of the heart during a heart attack, without binding to healthy areas of the heart, reducing the likelihood of side effects.”

The research team currently leads Infensa Bioscience, a company that has raised AUD 23 million (USD 15.2 million) for the commercial development of the Hi1a candidate drug.

Associate Professor and CEO of Infensa Bioscience, Mark Smythe, stated, “Most deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases are the result of heart attacks and strokes, yet there are no drugs on the market to prevent damage caused by heart attacks and strokes. An effective drug for treating heart attacks will have a global impact, providing groundbreaking progress in improving the lives of millions of heart disease patients.”

The research is published in the European Heart Journal, and the researchers discuss Hi1a in the video below.

Clinical Trials for Potentially Life-Saving Drug Derived from Deadly Australian Spider Venom

Clinical Trials for Potentially Life-Saving Drug Derived from Deadly Australian Spider Venom

(source:internet, reference only)


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