21 February 2005

A venom component from the Taipan, the world's deadliest snake, is being developed by Brisbane biotechnology company ElaCor, as a new drug to treat heart failure.

Current treatments for congestive heart failure (CHF), an often-fatal disease in which the heart is weakened and lacks the strength to adequately pump blood around the body, have serious side effects and do not combat the progression of the disease.

Over 3,000 Australians die as a result of CHF each year with a further 300,000 people affected by the disease.

The project's principal researcher University of Queensland's (UQ) Institute for Molecular Bioscience's (IMB) Professor Paul Alewood said a unique set of active molecules had been isolated from taipan venom.

"Initial tests indicate these molecules are extremely effective at easing the heart's workload," he said.

"In addition to being very effective these molecules are also extremely stable in the body with the therapeutic effect lasting long after administration, two extremely attractive features for new drugs.

"Ironically, the human body naturally produces similar types of molecules in response to heart failure but these breakdown too quickly to have a lasting effect making them inappropriate as a long term treatment," he said.

ElaCor was recently awarded a $80,000 Innovation Start Up Scheme grant by the Queensland Government to assist in establishing viable business processes.

Established by IMBcom, the commercialisation company for UQ's IMB, in collaboration with the Baker Heart Research Institute (BHRI), ElaCor is the result of an extensive research collaboration between Professor Alewood and between BHRI's Associate Professor Geoffrey Head.

IMBcom CEO Dr Peter Isdale was extremely pleased with the success of ElaCor in this latest round of funding and was gratified the Queensland Government continued to demonstrate its faith in Queensland science by supporting the science of today for the business of tomorrow.

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