Ventures with Venoms

Combinatorial chemistry and high-throughput screening have been the rage in drug discovery since the late 1990s, but plant and animal sources still hold promise. In particular, venoms have proven to be rich areas for exploitation. Drugs derived from snakes, vampire bats, and Gila monsters are all nearing regulatory review and potentially, approval. But in September, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted against approval of AstraZeneca’s Exanta, a cobra venom-derived anticoagulant. These products face the same and possibly higher hurdles as other molecules when it comes to reaching the market.

One of the most successful products derived from venom was the first FDA-approved angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, captopril. John Vane, a researcher at the Royal College of Surgeons, and a Brazilian fellow in his lab discovered that a peptide in Brazilian viper venom blocked the formation of angiotensin II. That drug went on to become Bristol-Myers Squibb’s captopril, which was approved in 1981. In 2002, worldwide sales of ACE inhibitors totaled $7.8 billion (US).

Read More

Posted in Medicine, Science, The New Scientist | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Shifting Tactics in the Battle Against Influenza

When U.S. Food and Drug Administration experts met to pick viral targets for the next flu season, they also discussed a promising new way to create vaccines. Read more

Posted in Medicine, Science, Science magazine | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Wealth of ‘Gear’. . . For What?

I was in a lather as I stepped into the cool breezes of the Salt Palace convention center here, eager to see the latest wares for getting my groove on in the great outdoors.

Yes, the 22nd Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, held Aug. 14 to 17, was a palace of gear-head splendor, chock full of ropes, harnesses, headlamps, climbing packs, hydration packs, adventure racing packs, trail running shoes, walking shoes, mountaineering boots, all-in-one tools, knives, tents, bivvy sacks, sleeping bags, trekking poles, GPS personal locators, sunscreen, sun hats, sunglasses, binoculars, altimeters, barometers, watches, kayaks, canoes, paddles, personal flotation devices for humans and for dogs, dog carrying packs, water bottles, fuel bottles, Luna bars, Balance Bars, Powerbars . . . I was overwhelmed! In addition to being an inveterate collector of Stuff, I was hoping that my proximity to dude-i-tude would add muscle to my underdeveloped hip factor. Read more

Posted in Adventure, Wall Street Journal | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Conversation with Cristian Samper: A Fascination With Forests Finds Fulfillment at Smithsonian

As a boy, Cristian Samper rambled through the tropical forests of his native Colombia, marveling at the diversity that surrounded him. Not content to view the flora and fauna only in the abstract, he began what was to become a lifelong obsession and vocation, cataloging the diversity and assembling it into collections that forcefully argue for its preservation. Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Museum of the Medical Macabre Edges Into the Mainstream

Over its 140 years, the National Museum of Health and Medicine has been a destination for amateur Civil War historians, medical researchers and tourists with a penchant for the macabre. The museum, on the campus of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, still has plenty to satisfy the prurient, but over the last five years it has put away more of its gruesome artifacts and edged further into the museum mainstream. “We have moved with the times, so we have a more contextual approach,”said Dr. Jim Connor, assistant director for collections. Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Turning a Camera, Stress and the Wild Into a Sudden Hit

LESS than a decade ago Mark Burnett was competing in adventure races, an experience that led to his life plan: he would bring the sport to America, which was having a love affair with the outdoors, sport utility vehicles and extreme sports.

To American athletes and television audiences, Mr. Burnett, who had no previous experience in television, brought the ”Eco-Challenge Expedition Race,” a several-hundred-miles-long endurance contest on foot, kayak and horseback in exotic locales that pits teams of four against themselves, each other, the whims of nature, and Mr. Burnett.

That was only the beginning. Now, as executive producer, he has brought to television the highly rated ”Survivor,” his jungle-theme soap opera/game show. Read more

Posted in Adventure, Culture, New York Times | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment