AVRU (Australian Venom Research Unit)

Overview

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) in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Melbourne focuses on research relating to injuries and deaths caused by venomous snakes, spiders, marine creatures and other organisms. Founded in 1994 by venom research pioneer, the late Associate Professor, Dr Struan Sutherland AO, AVRU has an enduring public profile in Australia and is tasked with creating knowledge and innovation pathways that will reduce the burden of venom-related injury and mortality and lead to new discoveries that benefit individuals and communities.

AVRU researchers carry out both laboratory and hospital-based studies that address important national and regional venomous injury problems.  In addition AVRU manage an Australian national venomous injury surveillance project. This work is undertaken with the aim to translate research and knowledge into a public forum to better inform our communities.

Over the past decade AVRU has developed key international collaborations that have enabled us to support a major initiative aimed at reducing the burden of snake bite envenoming in Papua New Guinea, where up to a 1,000 people a year may die from snakebite envenoming. Our multifocal approach has created a template for addressing the challenges of snakebite in other developing world settings, and our growing expertise is recognised through our leadership role in the Global Snakebite Initiative, and our participation in World Health Organization (WHO) efforts to improve access to antivenoms, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Resources

First aid for snakebites in Australia or New Guinea

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Like to know more about how AVRU is saving lives?

Donate

To donate to the Unit please contact Dr Ronelle Welton, Research Fellow, Australian Venom Research Unit E:  Ronelle.welton@unimelb.edu.au

  • Ph: +61 3 8344 9099
  • A: Level 9, Medical Building (181), The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

Staff

Australian Venom Research Unit

Cardiovascular Therapeutics Unit

Collaborators

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 Mark O'Shea, National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats, UK
  • Dr Wolfgang Wüster, University of Wales, Bangor, UK
  • Dr Chris Barnes, Bundaberg Base Hospital

Collaborators

  • Prof Teatulohi Matainaho, PhD, PNG Chief Scientist
  • Prof José María Gutiérrez, PhD, Instituto Clodomiro Picado, Costa Rica
  • Prof Juan Calvete, PhD, Instituto de Biomedicina de Valencia, Spain
  • Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre, Port Moresby General Hospital
  • Professor Danny Liew, MBBS, PhD, Monash University
  • Dr Richard Franklin, PhD, James Cook University
  • Dr Diane Brinkman, PhD, Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • Dr Jason Mulvenna, PhD, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
  • Sharyl Crossley, Senior Aquarist, Tennessee Aquarium
  • Professor Rejane Líra de Sílva, PhD, Universidade Federal da Bahia

Funding

  • 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
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Papua New Guinea Snakebite Project [2016-2017]
  • Miscellaneous small grants

PhD Opportunities

This research is available to PhD or Honour students to join as part of their thesis. Please contact the Research Group Leader to discuss your options.

Research Publications

  1. Pla D, Bande BW, Welton RE, Paiva OK, Sanz L, Segura A, Wright CE, Calvete JJ, Gutierrez JM, Williams DJ.
    Proteomics and antivenomics of Papuan black snake (Pseudechis papuanus) venom with analysis of its toxicological profile and the preclinical efficacy of Australian antivenoms. J Proteomics 2016; Submitted.
  2. Welton RE, Williams DJ, Liew D accepted Injury trends from envenoming in Australia, 2000-2013. Internal Medicine Journal 2016: submitted and accepted.
  3. McGain F*, Welton R*, Solley GO, Winkel KD.
    First fatalities from tick bite anaphylaxis. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2016: 4 (4): 769-770. *equal first authors.
  4. Padula AM, Winkel KD.
    Fatal presumed tiger snake (Notechis scutatus) envenomation in a cat with measurement of venom and antivenom concentration. Toxicon 2016; 113: 7-10.
  5. Padula AM, Winkel KD.
    Successful use of camelid (alpaca) antivenom to treat a potentially lethal tiger snake (Notechis scutatus) envenomation in a dog. Toxicon 2016; 114: 59-64.
  6. Welton RE, Dee D, Williams DJ.
    Snakes and Latitudes. Position 2016: 80: 28-29.
  7. Ponce D, Brinkman D L, Potriquet J, Mulvenna J.
    Tentacle transcriptome and venom proteome of the Pacific sea nettle, Chrysaora fuscescens (Cnidaria: Scyphozoa). Toxins 2016; 8: 120. DOI: 10.3390/toxins8040102.
  8. Ponce D, Brinkman DL, Luna-Ramírez K, Wright CE, Dorantes-Aranda JJ.
    Comparative study of the toxic effects of Chrysaora quinquecirrha (Cnidaria: Scyphozoa) and Chironex fleckeri (Cnidaria: Cubozoa) venoms using cell-based assays. Toxicon 2015; 106: 57-67. DOI: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2015.09.014.
  9. 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; 9 (9). DOI:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003960
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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 ikahekaJ Proteomics 2014; 110: 209-229.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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 yaschenkoiMol Pharmacol 2014; 86: 28-41.