Xenome Ltd., one of several spin-offs from research begun by the University of Queensland, aims to take advantage of the great variety of venomous species populating Australia by evaluating the poisons as potential therapeutics. The company is building libraries of the DNA sequences encoding venom peptides and plans to use the peptides as drug candidates against a variety of targets.

Roger Drinkwater, one of Xenome's three research directors, said most venom researchers have concentrated on a few specific venom peptides in each species. "But if you look at the whole animal's genome," Drinkwater said, "you find much more. You find a complex array of venom peptides." As peptides with novel pharmacologies began to be found, scientists in the university's program saw a commercial opportunity, he said.