Fighting the Bite – Sustainable Antivenom Production

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GRØN DYST 2014 Technical University of Denmark

Fighting the Bite – Sustainable Antivenom Production
Paper
Author:E.C. Jappe (DTU Chemistry, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark)
A.B. Jakobsen (DTU Chemistry, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark)
Date: 2014-06-27     Track: Main     Session: 1

Globally, more than 5.5 million people are bitten by venomous snakes per year, leading to 125,000 deaths and 4 times as many amputations. The problem is most prevalent in Sub- Saharan Africa in rural communities. Current antivenoms are obtained from immunised horse blood and are, therefore, not compatible with the human immune system. The antivenoms cause severe side effects (incl. serum sickness and death) in up to 81% of patients due to their immunogenicity. Additionally, current antivenoms lack efficacy and it is estimated that more than 99% of the antibodies and other proteins in antisera are non-specific and have no therapeutic effect on the snake venom. Hence, large quantities of antisera are needed for administration to the patient in order to deliver enough of the 1% potent antibodies. By using recombinant biopharmaceutical technology, we will replace current antivenoms with a more financially and ecologically sustainable alternative, based on recombinant humanised antibodies that specifically target the medically relevant toxins in snake venoms. This targeted therapy has the potential to be more efficacious and much safer, since humanised antibodies are compatible with the human immune system. Furthermore, using cost-competitive fermentation as the production method completely eliminates the need for production animals which substantially lowers the cost of production, and, in turn, reducing the cost of care by 90%. In Africa alone this will provide over 750 million people with access to antivenom; a drastic improvement compared to the current 10 million. Seeing this in a green perspective, our proposed solution has the potential to reduce production waste by 97% and to cut production time down to 4% of the current requirement.