Regents approve new VIPER Institute

November 21, 2007

A multidisciplinary group of UA scientists and clinicians led by Leslie Boyer of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center now have a new affiliation: the VIPER Institute became an official academic organizational unit within the UA College of Medicine following approval of the Arizona Board of Regents in October.

VIPER stands for Venom Immunochemistry, Pharmacology and Emergency Response. The acronym developed in 2004 as a way to refer to a venom research group of UA faculty from many departments and now will be the official designation for a UA institute dedicated to the applied phylogenetics of venom—using clues from the genealogy of venomous animals to guide scientific discovery toward practical applications.

Boyer, medical director of the poison center and a College of Medicine faculty member, is director and lead clinical investigator of the VIPER Institute. Faculty from the UA departments of Pharmacy Practice and Science, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biochemistry, Emergency Medicine, Biomedical Communications, Radiology, Pathology, Pediatrics, and Physiology are currently participating in VIPER Institute projects.

"The VIPER Institute is a common forum for venom and envenomation research conducted with UA and in collaboration with international partners," Boyer says. "By its nature, venom research is interdisciplinary and multinational, with need of expertise in medicine, evolutional biology, biochemistry, physiology, business, manufacturing, international law and pharmacy."

The VIPER Institute will function as an independent research partner to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, Boyer says. The poison center's managing director, Jude McNally, is liaison to the VIPER Institute.

Current projects and programs of the VIPER Institute include:

  • Snakebite coagulopathy studies and clinical trials
  • Exotic venoms clinical decision-making support and clinical trials
  • Scorpion venom neurotoxicity studies and clinical trials
  • Brown spider phylogenetics and diagnostic investigations
  • Collaborations with U.S. Army and Texas A&M's Natural Toxins Research Center
  • Collaboration with Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  • Pharmacoeconomics of antivenom

These projects include affiliations with research institutes in Benin, Australia and Mexico, and Lewis and Clark University, University of Nebraska and Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation.