Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Venomous Cone Snails: Using Philippine Marine Biodiversity to Develop Drugs for Pain

By Dr. Baldomero M. Olivera

Distinguished Professor of Biology, University of Utah • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor • Adjunct Professor, Marine Science Institute, UP • Adjunct Professor, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California

Saturday, 15 February 2014, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
Museum Foundation of the Philippines Hall
National Museum-National Art Gallery, P. Burgos Street, Manila

Free with National Museum Fee: P150 adults, P50 students
(Free admission to museum for MFPI members. Please text/call to ensure seats.)

Baldomero (“Toto”) Olivera was born and grew up in the Philippines; his early research contributions include the discovery and biochemical characterization of E. coli DNA ligase, an important enzyme of DNA replication and repair that has become a keystone of recombinant DNA technology. Toto Olivera initiated the characterization of predatory cone snail venoms.  A large number of peptide neurotoxins ("conotoxins") are present in each venom, and their characterization led Olivera’s research group to molecular neuroscience. Several peptides discovered in Olivera’s laboratory reached human clinical trials and one (Prialt) has been approved for the treatment of intractable pain.

Olivera has been elected a member of the American Philosophical Society, the U.S. National Academy of Science, and the Institute of Medicine.  He was given the Outstanding Alumni Award of Caltech, the Redi Award from the International Society for Toxinology and the Harvard Foundation Scientist of the Year 2007 Award. As an HHMI professor, Olivera’s science outreach program in the Philippines instills interest in young students through scientific principles observed in organisms and objects that they see every day. He has described over 30 new species of marine snails; one was chosen “100 of our planet’s most amazing new species” in 2013. In addition, he has a long-term interest in Southeast Asian Ceramic Art found in the Philippines.

He started collecting shells as a child and turned this hobby into a scientific career in Neuroscience and Biomedicine. He will discuss how the amazing biodiversity of Philippine seas has made it possible for him to discover a drug that alleviates pain, and contribute significantly to Neuroscience. He will also discuss how the maritime culture of the Philippines has continuously helped him in his scientific career.

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