Australian Venom Research Unit

Research 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 manages the Australian Venomous Injury project (AVIP), a surveillance project which focuses on identifying patterns in venomous injuries across the country. This work is undertaken with the aim to translate research and knowledge into a public forum to better inform our communities.


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Australian Venom Research Unit


Principal Honorary Fellows

  • A/Prof James Tibballs, Royal Children's Hospital
  • 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


  • 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 Laboratory, University of Papua New Guinea


  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Papua New Guinea Snakebite Project [2018-2024]
  • Direct Australian Government NHMRC: Research translation, engagement and injury surveillance [2019–2023]
  • Miscellaneous small grants

Research Publications


Jackson TNW, Jouanne H, Vidal N. Snake venom in context: Neglected clades and concepts. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (2019)

Harrison RA, Williams, DJ. Outlining progress since the first International Snakebite Awareness Day and some key challenges for next year. Transactions of The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (2019).

Ruiz de Castañeda R, Grey F, Williams DJ. Citizen science could map snakebite risk. Nature (2019) 571(7766):478.

Zdenek CN, Hay C, Arbuckle K, Jackson TNW, Bos MHA, Op den Brouw B, Debono J, Allen L, Dunstan N, Morley T, Herrera M, Gutiérrez JM, Williams DJ, Fry BG. Coagulotoxic effects by brown snake (Pseudonaja) and taipan (Oxyuranus) venoms, and the efficacy of a new antivenom. Toxicology in Vitro (2019). 58 97-109.

Williams DJ, Faiz MA, Abela-Ridder B, Ainsworth S, Bulfone TC, Nickerson AD, Habib AG, Junghanss T, Fan HW, Turner M, Harrison RA, Warrell DA. Strategy for a globally coordinated response to a priority neglected tropical disease: Snakebite envenoming. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (2019) 13(2): e0007059


Habib, AG, Brown, NI. The Snakebite problem and antivenom crisis from a health-economic perspective. Toxicon (2018) 150, 115-123

Lewin MR, Gutiérrez JM, Samuel SP, Herrera M, Bryan-Quirós W, Lomonte B, Bickler PE, Bulfone TC, Williams DJ. Delayed Oral LY333013 Rescues Mice from Highly Neurotoxic, Lethal Doses of Papuan Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) Venom. Toxins (2018) 10(10)

Longbottom J, Shearer FM, Devine M, Alcoba G, Chappuis F, Weiss DJ, Ray SE, Ray N, Warrell DA, Ruiz de Castañeda R, Williams DJ, Hay SI, Pigott DM. Vulnerability to snakebite envenoming: a global mapping of hotspots. The Lancet (2018; In Press)

Williams DJ, Habib, AG, Warrell DA. Clinical studies of the effectiveness and safety of antivenoms. Toxicon (2018) 150 1-10

Goldenberg, J, Cipriani, V, Jackson, TNW, Arbuckle, K, Debono, J, Dashevsky, D, Panagides N, Ikonomopoulou MP, Koludarov I, Li B, Santana RC, Nouwens A, Jones A, Hay C, Dunstan N, Allen L, Bush B, Miles JJ, Ge L, Kwok HF, Fry BG. Proteomic and functional variation within black snake venoms (Elapidae: Pseudechis). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part C: Toxicology & Pharmacology (2018) 205, 53-61.

Dobson, J, Yang, DC, op den Brouw, B, Cochran, C, Huynh, T, Kurrupu, S, Sánchez, EE, Massey, DJ, Baumann, K, Jackson, TNW, Nouwens A, Josh P, Neri-Castro E, Alagón A, Hodgson WC, Fry BG. Rattling the border wall: Pathophysiological implications of functional and proteomic venom variation between Mexican and US subspecies of the desert rattlesnake Crotalus scutulatus. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part C: Toxicology & Pharmacology (2018) 205, 62-69.


Gutiérrez JM, Calvete JJ, Habib AG, Harrison RA, Williams DJ, Warrell DA. Snakebite envenoming. Nature Reviews Disease Primers (2017) 3 17063

Welton RE, Williams DJ, Liew D. Injury trends from envenoming in Australia, 2000-2013. Internal Medicine Journal (2017) 47 (2) 170-176

Panagides, N, Jackson, TNW, Ikonomopoulou, M, Arbuckle, K, Pretzler, R, Yang, D, Ali, S, Koludarov, I, Dobson, J, Sanker, B, Asselin A, Santana RC, Hendrikx I, van der Ploeg H, Tai-A-Pin J, van den Bergh R, Kerkkamp HM, Vonk FJ, Naude A, Strydom MA, Jacobsz L, Dunstan N, Jaeger M, Hodgson WC, Miles J, Fry BG. How the cobra got its flesh-eating venom: Cytotoxicity as a defensive innovation and its co-evolution with hooding, aposematic marking, and spitting. Toxins (2017) 9 103.

Maddock ST, Childerstone A, Fry BG, Williams DJ, Barlow A, Wüster W. Multi-locus phylogeny and species delimitation of Australo-Papuan blacksnakes (Pseudechis Wagler, 1830: Elapidae: Serpentes). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution (2017) 107 48 – 55

Pla D, Bande BW, Welton RE, Paiva OK, Sanz L, Segura Á, Wright CE, Calvete JJ, Gutiérrez 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. Journal of Proteomics (2017) 150 201 - 221

Nuebling CM, Williams DJ. Guidelines for the Production, Regulation and Control of Snake Antivenom Immunoglobulins World Health Organization (Expert Committee on Biological Standardization) World Health Organization (2017)

Rathbone J, Franklin R, Gibbs C, Williams DJ. Role of magnesium sulphate in the management of Irukandji syndrome: A systematic review. Emergency Medicine Australasia (2017) 1 9 - 17

Han, H, Baumann, K, Casewell, N, Ali, S, Dobson, J, Koludarov, I, Debono, J, Cutmore, S, Rajapakse, N, Jackson, TNW, Jones R, Hodgson WC, Fry BG, Kuruppu S. The cardiovascular and neurotoxic effects of the venoms of six bony and cartilaginous fish species. Toxins (2017), 9, 67.

Oh H, Shin J, Ato M, Ma X, Williams DJ, Han K, Kim YJ, Kang H, Jung K, Hanada K, Ochiai M, Hung PV, Park S, Ahn C. The First Meeting of the National Control Laboratories for Vaccines and Biologicals in the Western Pacific in 2016. Osong Public Health Research Perspectives (2017) 8 (1) 91 - 103 P02713327

Cipriani V, Debono J, Goldenberg J, Jackson TNW, Arbuckle K, Dobson J, Koludarov I, Li B, Hay C, Dunstan N, Allen L, Hendrikx I, Kwok HF, Fry BG. Correlation between ontogenetic dietary shifts and venom variation in Australian brown snakes (Pseudonaja) Comp. Biochem. Physiol. C: Toxicol. Pharmacol. 2017. 197: 53-60.

Lister C, Arbuckle K, Jackson TNW, Debono J, Zdenek CN, Dashevsky D, Dunstan D, Allen L, Hay C, Bush B, Gillett A, Fry BG. Catch a tiger snake by its tail: Differential toxicity, co-factor dependence and antivenom efficacy in a procoagulant clade of Australian venomous snakes. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. C: Toxicol. Pharmacol. 2017. 202: 39-54.