Williams Laboratory: Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU)


Australia has an international reputation for being the epicentre of all things venomous, whether it happens to be venomous snakes and arthropods on land, bees and wasps in the air, or lethal jellyfish, stingrays, stonefish and octopi in our oceans. The Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU) conducts research with two main focus areas. The first is to characterise venoms and toxins in order to better understand the mechanism of envenomation and apply this understanding to improve treatment outcomes. A novel activity identified through this work has the potential for use as an investigational tool to aid in medical research and may identify drug discovery leads. The second is the use of public health applications to translate research and knowledge within a public forum and in addition quantify the burden of injury through epidemiological works.


To donate to the Unit please contact Ms Belinda Collins, Senior Development Manager for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.


Do you have a question?  Please e-mail david.williams@unimelb.edu.au.  Please be patient, as we have many queries replies may take 2-3 days.

Like to know more about how AVRU is saving lives?


First aid for snakebites in Australia or New Guinea

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AVRU advisory board

  • Professor Emeritus James Angus AO, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Melbourne (Chair)
  • Professor Danny Liew, Director of Melbourne EpiCentre
  • Professor Shaun Ewen, Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, University of Melbourne
  • A/Prof James Tibballs, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne 
  • Dr John Bates, Honorary and former Business Development Manger within University of Melbourne Commercial

Principal Honorary Fellows

  • A/Prof James Tibballs, Royal Children's Hospital 
  • Prof P. Gopalakrishnakone, National University of Singapore 
  • Prof David Warrell, University of Oxford, UK

Honorary Fellows

  • Dr Simon Jensen, Nambour Hospital, Qld 
  • Dr Bill Nimorakiotakis, Epworth and Western Hospitals 
  • Dr Mark O'Shea, National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats, UK 
  • Dr Wolfgang Wüster, University of Wales, Bangor, UK 
  • Dr Nadine Levick, Miamonades Medical Center, NYC, USA 
  • Dr Katia Barbaro, Institute Butantan, SP, Brazil 
  • Dr Chris Barnes, Bundaberg Base Hospital


  • Prof Teatulohi Matainaho, PNG Chief Scientist 
  • Prof José María Gutiérrez, Instituto Clodomiro Picado, Costa Rica 
  • Prof Juan Calvete, Instituto de Biomedicina de Valencia, Spain 
  • Mr Owen Paiva, Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre, University of PNG 
  • Dr Robin Oge, Port Moresby General Hospital 
  • A/Prof James Harrison, Flinders University 
  • A/Prof Peter Fenner, James Cook University 
  • Dr Angel Yanagihara, University of Hawaii 
  • Dr Diane Brinkman, Australian Institute of Marine Science 
  • Dr Jason Mulvenna, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute 
  • Sharyl Crossley, Senior Aquarist, Tennessee Aquarium


  • NH&MRC: A randomized, double-blinded controlled trial (RCT) of a new whole IgG, equine antivenom compared to the currently used F(ab')2 CSL taipan antivenom, for the treatment of Papuan taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) envenoming in Papua New Guinea [2012–2014]
  • Direct Australian Government NH&MRC: Research translation, engagement and injury surveillance [2013–2017]
  • The Struan Sutherland Trust
  • Miscellaneous small grants

Research Publications

  1. Gutiérrez JM, Burnouf T, Harrison RA, Calvete JJ, Brown NI, Jensen SD, Warrell DA, Williams DJ;
    Global Snakebite Initiative. A call for incorporating social research in the global struggle against snakebite. PLoS NTD. 2015: In press.
  2. Godinho S, Woolley M, Webb, JC, Winkel KD.
    Sharing Place, Learning Together: Perspectives and reflections on an educational partnership formation with a remote Indigenous community school. Aust J Indigenous Education 2015; 1 – 15 DOI: 10.1017/jie.2015.11.
  3. Godinho S, Woolley M, Webb, JC, Winkel KD. Sharing Place, Learning Together: A Two-Way Pedagogy. UNESCO Observatory E-Journal 2015; 4:2: 1-27.
  4. Paiva OK, Pla D, Wright CE, Beutler M, Sanz L, Gutiérrez JM, Williams DJ, Calvete JJ.
    Combined venom gland cDNA sequencing and venomics of the New Guinea small-eyed snake, Micropechis ikaheka. J Proteomics 2014; 110: 209-229.
  5. Pla D, Paiva OK, Sanz L, Wright CE, Beutler M, Calvete JJ, Williams DJ, Gutiérrez JM.
    Preclinical efficacy of Australian antivenoms against the venom of the small-eyed snake, Micropechis ikaheka, from Papua New Guinea: an antivenomics and neutralization study. J Proteomics 2014; 110: 198-208.
  6. Herrera M, Paiva OK, Pagotto AH, Segura A, Serrano SMT, Vargas M, Villalta M, Jensen SD, León G, Williams DJ, Gutiérrez JM.
    Antivenomic characterization of two antivenoms against the venom of the taipan, Oxyuranus scutellatus, from Papua New Guinea and Australia. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg 2014; 91: 887-894.
  7. Gutiérrez JM, Burnouf T, Harrison RA, Calvete JJ, Kuch U, Warrell DA, Williams DJ for the Global Snakebite Initiative.
    A multicomponent strategy to improve the availability of antivenom for treating snakebite envenoming. Bull World Health Organ 2014; 92: 532-536.
  8. Luna-Ramírez K, Bartok A, Restano-Cassulini R, Quintero-Hernández V, Coronas FIV, Christensen J, Wright CE, Panyi G, Possani LD.
    Structure, molecular modeling and function of a novel potassium channel blocker, urotoxin, isolated from the venom of the Australian scorpion Urodacus yaschenkoi. Mol Pharmacol 2014; 86: 28-41.
  9. Atakuziev BU, Wright CE, Graudins A, Nicholson GM & Winkel KD.
    Efficacy of Australian red-back spider (Latrodectus hasselti) antivenom in the treatment of clinical envenomation by the cupboard spider Steatoda capensis (Theridiidae). Toxicon 2014; 86: 68-78.
  10. Luna-Ramírez K, Sani MA, Silva-Sanchez J, Jiménez-Vargase JM, Reyna-Flores F, Winkel KD, Wright CE, Possani LD, Separovic F.
    Membrane interactions and biological activity of antimicrobial peptides from Australian scorpion. Biochim Biophys Acta 2014; 1838: 2140-2148.
  11. Luna-Ramírez K, Quintero-Hernández V, Vargas-Jaimes L, Batista CV, Winkel KD, Possani LD.
    Characterization of the venom from the Australian scorpion Urodacus yaschenkoi: molecular mass analysis of components, cDNA sequences and peptides with antimicrobial activity.
    Toxicon 2013; 63: 44-54.
  12. Gutiérrez JM, Warrell DA, Williams DJ, Jensen S, Brown N, Calvete JJ, Harrison RA.
    The need for full integration of snakebite envenoming within a global strategy to combat the neglected tropical diseases: the way forward. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2013; 7: e2162.
  13. Warrell DA, Gutiérrez JM, Calvete JJ, Williams D.
    New approaches & technologies of venomics to meet the challenge of human envenoming by snakebites in India. Indian J Med Res 2013; 138: 38-59.
  14. Webb JC, Godinho SC, Woolley MF, Winkel KD.
    Sharing Place, Learning Together: the birthplace of new ways? Med J Aust 2013; 199: 69-71.
  15. Healy J, Winkel KD (Eds)
    Venom; Fear, Fascination and Discovery, Exhibition Catalogue, Medical History Museum. University of Melbourne, 2013, ISBN 978 0 7340 4834 9.
  16. Hughes RJA, Angus JA, Winkel KD, Wright CE.
    A pharmacological investigation of the venom extract of the Australian box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri, in cardiac and vascular tissues.
    Toxicol Lett 2012; 209: 11-20.
  17. Herrera M, Fernández J, Vargas M, Villalta M, Segura A, León G, Angulo Y, Paiva O, Matainaho T, Jensen SD, Winkel KD, Calvete JJ, Williams DJ, Gutiérrez JM.
    Comparative proteomic analysis of the venom of the taipan snake, Oxyuranus scutellatus, from Papua New Guinea and Australia: Role of neurotoxic and procoagulant effects in venom toxicity.
    J Proteomics 2012; 75: 2128-2140.
  18. Vargas M, Segura A, Herrera M, Villalta M, Estrada R, Cerdas M, Paiva O, Matainaho T, Jensen SD, Winkel KD, León G, Gutiérrez JM, Williams DJ.
    Preclinical evaluation of caprylic acid-fractionated IgG antivenom for the treatment of Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) envenoming in Papua New Guinea.
    PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2011; 5: e1144.
  19. Williams DJ, Brown N, Calvete J, Casewell N, Gutiérrez JM, Harrison R, Jensen SJ, Paiva O, Ratanabanangkoon K, Winkel KD, Wüster W, Warrell DA.
    Ending the drought: new strategies for improving the flow of affordable, effective antivenoms in Asia and Africa.
    J Proteomics 2011; 74: 1735-1767.
  20. Li R, Wright CE, Winkel KD, Gershwin LA, Angus JA.
    The pharmacology of Malo maxima jellyfish venom extract in isolated cardiovascular tissues: a probable cause of the Irukandji syndrome in Western Australia. Toxicol Lett 2011; 201: 221-229.
  21. Lippmann JM, Fenner PJ, Winkel K, Gershwin LA.
    Fatal and severe box jellyfish stings, including Irukandji stings, in Malaysia, 2000-2010.
    J Travel Med 2011; 18: 275-281.
  22. Gutiérrez JM, Williams DJ, Fan HW, Warrell DA.
    Snakebite envenoming from a global perspective: Towards an integrated approach.
    Toxicon 2010; 56: 1223-1235.
  23. Williams DJ, Gutiérrez JM, Harrison R, Warrell DA, White J, Winkel KD, Gopalakrishnakone P.
    An antidote for snake bite: The Global Snake Bite Initiative.
    Lancet 2010; 375: 89-91.