Snakebite

Our vision is a world where snakebite treatments are safe, effective, and accessible for everyone. 

What we want to achieve 

Treatments for snakebites already exist and yet the human toll from snakebites is one of the world's biggest hidden health crises. They are thought to result in over 100,000 deaths every year, and leave another 400,000 with life-changing disabilities, mostly in the poorest communities. To prevent this, we want to help make safe, effective, and accessible snakebite treatments a reality for everyone.

Areas of focus 

We want to help transform the way in which snakebite treatments are researched, developed and delivered. If successful, this will also serve as a model for other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

Green cartoon snake on a blue background with three illustrated medicinal symbols around it
Credit:

Ryan Chapman for Wellcome

Licence: Attribution CC BY

Ambition 1: Bring production of snakebite treatments into the 21st century 

Antivenom is currently the only medicine for treating snakebite and it is made up of animal-derived antibodies – a 19th-century technology. There are no common production, safety, or efficacy standards, which means there is a high risk of antivenom being contaminated and causing adverse reactions. Large quantities of antivenom are often needed for successful treatment, and this can be highly costly for snakebite patients.  

We want to modernise antivenom production by enhancing the science and applying technology to make products better, safer, and cheaper. We believe this can happen by working with the World Health Organization (WHO), antivenom producers, and other funders and delivery partners to build a regulatory system that gets more effective products to patients more rapidly.

A cartoon foot and hand on a green background, both with visible snakebites. Between them are two blue circles, one with an cartoon eye and one with a cartoon medicine bottle
Credit:

Ryan Chapman for Wellcome

Licence: Attribution CC BY

Ambition 2: Develop the next generation of treatments

Antivenom treatments can be expensive to manufacture, have risky side effects, and are not always effective at neutralising snake venom. 

It is essential we continue to explore the development of new and alternative treatments to traditional antivenoms which may be safer, effective against more snake species and with fewer doses, and possess manufacturing incentives resulting in more sustained production and availability. 

We want to help develop the pipeline of new snakebite treatments and antivenoms by generating an evidence base for which treatments work and why.

A cartoon earth on a yellow orange background. The earth is surrounded by various symbols relating to healthcare
Credit:

Ryan Chapman for Wellcome

Licence: Attribution CC BY

Ambition 3: Build and sustain snakebite as a global health priority

Until now, snakebite envenoming has never been regarded as a public health priority or as an issue of urgent concern. As a result, government and intergovernmental agencies have been slow to prioritise prevention of snakebites and integration of treatments into health systems. An unstable market for snakebite treatments has driven their costs up. This leads to the withdrawal of treatments from the market because poorer communities cannot sustain the price. 

We will generate evidence about snakebite’s prevalence and economic cost. This information will help to underpin the development of a more robust market and integrate treatments into health systems where snakebites have most impact, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

"Snakebites are inevitable, but the resulting deaths and morbidity are not. With prompt access to high-quality antivenom, even those bitten by the deadliest snakes, from cobras to vipers, should have a good chance of recovery."

Nicholas Cammack

Head of Snakebite

Wellcome

Our progress so far 

In 2019, we launched a seven year, £80 million programme, committed to transforming the way snakebite treatments are researched and delivered to help make them safe, effective, and accessible for all. 

Following the publication of Wellcome’s new strategy we will continue to act as an integrated, impact-driven programme which will align with Wellcome’s ambitious goals and be underpinned by principles of diversity and inclusion and research culture. We believe adopting multidisciplinary approaches and working in areas that intersect with other global health priorities will be essential in our work to address snakebite. We remain committed to the translation of research and development into advancements in snakebite treatment, and tangible benefits to health outcomes.  

We currently have an active portfolio of grants spanning across our ambition areas and aiming to improve snakebite health outcomes across the globe. 

We are a global programme, supporting research projects that take place in, and involve stakeholders from over 30 countries:

Research location and projects

The research locations listed here are broadly defined and include countries where research projects, administrative organisations, partnerships, consultations and other work relating to the projects we are supporting has been active.  

Wellcome has consistently been the largest philanthropic funder of snakebite research and development in recent years, and we are pleased to see that global funding for snakebite has increased yearly since 2017 when it was added to the WHO's list of neglected tropical diseases.

We will continue helping to build and sustain global funding for snakebite research.

Global funding for snakebite R&D 2007-2020

We've awarded more than £15 million in funding to support researchers working on innovative approaches to discover and develop next generation treatments for snakebite. 

An overview of the current pipeline of snakebite treatments can be found below. With current marketed products far from covering the needs of patients, and the vast majority of investigational candidates in early-stage development, ongoing and long-term commitment from researchers and funders will be essential.

Snakebite products and candidates by product type and R&D stage

Programme outputs 

Commissioned reports

Snakebite envenoming drugs and biologics pipeline 2015 - present 

We recently commissioned a comprehensive review of the pipeline of snakebite drugs and biologics in development since 2015.  

We hope this will provide a useful picture of what has happened in the field of snakebite treatment development in the past seven years and provide users with insights into the various treatment types in the pipeline and their development stages, the opportunities for investment and collaboration, and which marketed products have undergone clinical assessment and obtained regulatory approval. 

Find out more about the snakebite treatment pipeline and access the full dataset through the interactive web-based portal here.

Snakebite research funding 2007-2018

We've commissioned the first comprehensive look at funding for snakebite envenoming research globally between 2007-2018.  

We hope this research helps those working in the snakebite field to see the gaps and possibilities for new solutions and collaborations. 

Download the report 

Publications

PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases (2022). Intrageneric cross-reactivity of monospecific rabbit antisera against venoms of the medically most important Bitis spp. and Echis spp. African snakes  

BMJ Global Health (2022). Situation of snakebite, antivenom market and access to antivenoms in ASEAN countries. 

Contact us

If you have any questions about our programme or the research we are supporting, please contact us via email.

snakebites@wellcome.org

Our Team 

  • Nicholas Cammack

    Head of Snakebite

    Wellcome

  • Diogo Martins

    Research Lead - Snakebite

    Wellcome

  • George Phillips

    Senior Research Manager - Snakebite

    Wellcome

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