Refining, reducing and replacing in vivo WHO-standard preclinical assays of snake venom pathology and antivenom efficacy

The Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit (ARVRU) of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and MicroPharm Ltd. have a long association in the production and delivery of life-saving snake antivenoms for West Africa, which suffers the continent's highest snakebite mortality burden. Antivenom is the mainstay of snakebite treatment and is immunoglobulin purified from the sera of venom-immunised horses and sheep. There is a legal/regulatory requirement to conduct in vivo preclinical efficacy testing of new and existing antivenoms prior to human treatment. These assays carry a 'substantial' severity grading by the UK Home Office.

The objective of this PhD Studentship is to assess whether a cell-based system can be used to replace in vivo preclinical testing, and to determine the extent to which various 3R-modifications can be incorporated into these assays to reduce the numbers of animals and the associated pain, suffering and distress whilst retaining the scientific/regulatory validity of the assays.

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Harrison RA et al. (2017). Preclinical antivenom-efficacy testing reveals potentially disturbing deficiencies of snakebite treatment capability in East Africa. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 11(10). doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005969

Herrera M et al. (2017). Freeze-dried EchiTAb+ICP antivenom formulated with sucrose is more resistant to thermal stress than the liquid formulation stabilized with sorbitol. Toxicon 133:123-126. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2017.05.006

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Bolton FM et al. (2014). Production and assessment of ovine antisera for the manufacture of a veterinary adder antivenom. Veterinary Record 174(16):406. doi: 10.1136/vr.102286

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PhD Studentship



Principal investigator

Dr Robert Harrison


Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine


Professor Richard Pleass
Professor John Landon

Grant reference number


Award date

May 2012 - Apr 2016

Grant amount