Outside the New York Bar Association, Manhattan.

Venom & Drugs in New York City!

Just another night in New York City, right? Wrong. This was a lecture at the New York Bar Association (NYBA), sponsored by the NYBA Animal Law Committee.

Outside the New York Bar Association

Outside the New York Bar Association

The lecture was actually titled Animal Venoms to Drugs: The Biodiversity-Habitat-Medicine Mix. It was a fascinating discussion featuring 3 great speakers – George Amato, Ph.D., Director, Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History; Zoltan Takacs, Ph.D., President, ToxinTech, Inc., Explorer of the National Geographic Society; and Paige West, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University; Editor, Environment and Society. The discussion was moderated by Martha Golar,  a member of the Animal Law Committee.

Puff Adder, photo by Alison Nicholls

Puff Adder, photo by Alison Nicholls

Animal venoms are proving to be increasingly important in the creation of new drug treatments, but the loss of biodiversity threatens the huge pool of unexplored molecules occurring in the natural world. The lecture examined the legal and policy implications of wildlife destruction for modern medicine.

Here are some of the interesting facts I noted during the lecture:
– Of the top 3 drugs used in the US to treat heart-attack, 2 are derived from venom.
– There are 150, 000 venomous species on Earth.
– The illegal trade in wildlife is worth at least US$25 billion annually (3nd in value after the illegal trades in narcotics and weapons).
– There are 20 million toxins in nature but only 10-15,000 have been sequenced and only 1000 have been sequenced in detail
– The hooded pitohui is a poisonous bird which has a neurotoxin in its skin and feathers!

Just when I think I have come across every wildlife-related event in this city I find an entire field I had not even considered. Now I will have to keep an eye on the lectures sponsored by the NYBA Animal Law Committee too. Never a dull moment on the streets of Manhattan!

Until next time..

Donating to African conservation from every sale.


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