Parasites remain a major threat to human and veterinary medicine, with drug-resistance and lack of efficacy urgently necessitating the development of novel drugs. Venoms have evolved over millions of years to become cocktails of selective and potent bioactive molecules, but their potential as sources of novel anthelmintics is underexplored. We screened over 250 crude venoms from a diverse panel of arachnids, insects and marine snails, for activity against key veterinary and human parasites, achieving hit rates of 9–21% against hookworms, schistosomes, gastrointestinal nematodes of ruminants, and malaria. Candidate venoms were characterised using bioassay-guided fractionation and proteotranscriptomic techniques to identify active compounds from a range of venomous animals, including tarantulas, funnelweb spiders, scorpions, ants and caterpillars. The identified molecules were subsequently characterised in a range of bioassays to explore their therapeutic potential and their ecological function for the venomous animal. This work has identified several lead molecules for human and animal health, and new antiparasitic drug targets.  

Samantha is a former arachnophobic turned venoms scientist and spider advocate at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland. She is the venomous animal and arthropod venom collection manager in Professor Glenn King’s laboratory. Her research harnesses the unique chemistries in venoms to develop new medicines, biotechnologies and pharmacological tools. Samantha is an avid explorer, working around the world from the Amazon to the Antarctic. She is a passionate advocate for addressing inequality in STEM, education and leadership through science communication and hopes sharing her passion for spiders will help inspire the next-generation of Australian scientists. Samantha has been recognised with the Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship, the UQ Global Change Scholar Award and Young Science Ambassador Award. Samantha was recently awarded the 2020 Queensland Women in STEM Prize, the 2020 Women in Technology Young Science Achiever Award and the 2020 Green Talent Award from the German Ministry of Education and Research, recognising her as one of the top 25 young leaders in science for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals worldwide.



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