Developing Snake Antivenom
Does the idea of a snake bite—possibly poisonous—make you shudder? During a sabbatical spent at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Claire Komives began developing an effective antivenom that may have a major impact in the areas of the world where poisonous bites are most prevalent. Inspired by researcher Binie V. Lipps, who discovered a protein in opossums that makes them immune to snake bites, Dr. Komives has created a low-cost method for synthesizing and testing peptides found in that protein and is applying them to the creation of a new snake antivenom.
“We have been able to answer questions about the activity of a peptide to neutralize venom from Indian snakes,” she explains.
Komives intends to seek additional funding to further develop the peptide so that it has a longer half-life in the body. Komives was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship—her second—to share active, project-based learning models that have proven to be successful at SJSU with universities across India. She will work with the faculty and administrators of engineering colleges to try to improve the quality of teaching there, as many institutions limit their methods to lectures. Being in India will also allow her to continue to collaborate with an Indian pharmaceutical company for the development of the lowcost antivenom.
Israel Juarez Contreras, ’19 MS Chemical Engineering, inspects an assembled bioreactor containing growth media before it is autoclaved (sterilized). After sterilization, yeast (Pichia Pastoris) engineered for antivenom production is grown in the bioreactor. Israel has been accepted into the biochemistry and biophysics Ph.D. program at UC San Diego.
PI: CLAIRE KOMIVES
Chemical Engineering, Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering
SPONSOR: National Institutes of Health