Foundation laid for antivenom research centre in Bengaluru

Expected to be ready in five years, it will focus on development of antivenoms tailored for Karnataka

July 04, 2022 07:28 pm | Updated July 05, 2022 11:33 am IST - Bengaluru

The centre will have a serpentarium, venom extraction observatory, research lab, incubation facility, and digital library.

The centre will have a serpentarium, venom extraction observatory, research lab, incubation facility, and digital library.

In five years from now, Bengaluru will house the Antivenom Research and Development Centre (AVRDC), the foundation for which was laid on Monday at the Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB), Bengaluru Helix Biotech Park, Electronics City.

AVRDC will be established as a collaborative initiative between the Karnataka Innovative & Technological Society (KITS) of the Department of IT/BT, IBAB (Institute of Bioinformatics & Applied Biotechnology) and the Evolutionary Venomics Lab, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science. The building will come up at a cost of ₹7 crore, said a release.

High fatalities

Speaking after laying the foundation stone, C.N. Ashwath Narayan, Minister for IT/BT and S&T, said India sees 58,000 deaths owing to snakebites and 1,37,000 disabilities annually.

He expressed confidence that the centre would contribute to reducing the number of deaths owing to snakebites, especially among farmers.

“One of the major limitations in pursuing snake venom research in India is the lack of accessibility to venoms. Owing to this, a vast knowledge gap exists in the field of snake venom research in the country. The centre will help overcome these limitations,” he said.

Over 500 snakes

This will be a state-of-the-art centre for snakebite research in India, housing about 500 snakes, belonging to about 23 species, and other creatures like scorpions and spiders etc. from the Indian sub-continent.

It will also house a research facility and incubation centre for start-ups interested in pursuing biodiscovery research on venoms, Mr. Narayan stated.

The centre on 16,000 sqft space will have a serpentarium, venom extraction observatory, research lab, incubation facility, and digital library. The Minister said that the centre would pave way for academia-industry collaborations for the development of regional antivenoms, tailored exclusively for Karnataka.

Stating that the centre will play a major role in developing advanced biotechnological snakebite interventions and bio-discovery research from venoms, Karthik Sunagar of IISc. said that it will also provide various services for the manufacture of the life-saving antivenoms.

Next generation therapy

“The objective of the centre is also to pursue research towards the development of a broadly efficacious next-generation antivenom therapy. The centre will also assist commercial Indian antivenom manufacturers in efficacy testing of venom and antivenom products, as well as in advancing the effectiveness of conventional antivenoms,” Mr. Karthik added.

In addition, it is expected that AVRDC will assist Forest Department with wildlife forensic research, biotechnological innovations, snakebite education and outreach, and support entrepreneurship in the concerned domain, according to a release.

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