Bugs and drugs

The Peptide Kings

Nervous system disorders, like pain, epilepsy, and stroke remain some of the world’s most serious health problems. Pain is prolific. Chronic pain is the biggest unresolved medical condition in the world. Stroke is the second leading cause of death and the leading cause of morbidity.

Epilepsy, stroke, and pain have two significant things in common. Firstly, an overactive or mutated ion channel influences the disease, and secondly, there are no good treatments to address them. The King Group hope to change that.

The Group is exploring the venoms of spiders, centipedes, and scorpions to find novel peptides that can inhibit or activate ion channels. These have potential to become drugs for nervous system disorders. 

Research overview

“Spider venoms are predicted to contain more than 10 million different bioactive peptides. Venoms have evolved to target the nervous systems of their prey, and neurotoxic venoms are also highly targeted within the human body, which makes them excellent drug candidates,” said Group Leader Glenn King.

“We have discovered molecules within venom that modulate ion channels. A very promising discovery that may be effective against epilepsy is entering clinical trials soon.”

The King Group have also applied their expertise in venom derived peptide chemistry to create an eco-friendly bio-insecticide. It was a significant discovery that charted new territory in the field. The resulting product will be on the market in 2017.

“We have developed a discovery pipeline that allows us to obtain venom peptide structures and structure-activity relationship data at an unprecedented rate,” said Professor King.

The Institute for Molecular Bioscience is the leading institute for venom-based drug discovery in the world. It has the biggest collection of venoms, with over 600 in the library.

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Research title: Bugs and drugs

Summary of research interests: Animal venoms are increasingly being used in drug discovery efforts as they constitute a vast and largely untapped source of pharmacologically active molecules. Spiders are by far the most successful group of venomous animals and their venoms are predicted to contain more than 10 million different bioactive peptides. Our group is exploring spider venoms as a source of novel peptides to provide leads for the development of new drugs and insecticides. As a major part of this initiative, we have developed a discovery pipeline that allows venom peptide structures and structure-activity relationship data to be obtained at an unprecedented rate.

Traineeships, honours and PhD projects include

  • Discovery and characterisation of venom peptides targeted at ion channels involved in sensing or transmission of pain
  • Discovery and characterisation of novel insecticidal and nematicidal compounds
  • Structural characterisation of the interaction between venom peptides and their ion channel targets
  • Examination of the genetic basis underlying the remarkable diversity and evolution of venom peptides.

Contact: Professor Glenn King

+61 7 3346 2025
glenn.king@imb.uq.edu.au


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Prof Glenn King

Professor Glenn King

Postgraduate Coordinator

Group Leader, Chemistry and Structural Biology Division

Investigator, Centre for Pain Research

  +61 7 3346 2025  
  glenn.king@imb.uq.edu.au
  IMB Researcher Profile
  Centre for Pain Research


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