Toowoomba student studies pain relief potential in venomous snails

2 May 2013

A Toowoomba student spent his summer holidays helping to develop drugs to combat pain from cone snail venom at The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

Nikolas Wang, who studied a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at the University of Southern Queensland, joined Professor Paul Alewood’s laboratory at the IMB for the 10-week summer research project.

Mr Wang studied proteins from cone snail venom, known as conotoxins, to determine whether they would be suitable to develop into drugs to relieve pain.

“Cone snails have spent 50 million years evolving a complex venom cocktail of thousands of conotoxins, some of which have shown great promise in treating conditions such as chronic pain,” Mr Wang said.

“I analysed the structure of selected conotoxins to ensure they would target pain receptors effectively, then modified the structures and tested them again to see if a slightly different version had a better effect.”

Mr Wang, originally from Brazil, said he was attracted to study in Australia after completing a Year 12 exchange.

“I wanted to experience living overseas and gain independence,” he said. “Queensland has similar weather to Brazil and the people are warm and friendly.”

Mr Wang encouraged students who are interested in gaining practical research skills to consider the paid summer internships offered by The University of Queensland.

If you are interested in joining the IMB as a summer research student, please visit

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The Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is a research institute of The University of Queensland that aims to improve quality of life by advancing personalised medicine, drug discovery and biotechnology.


Media contact: 
Bronwyn Adams, IMB Communications Officer – 0418 575 247 or 07 3346 2134