Mother Nature has provided a rich source of raw materials for a host of important drugs: aspirin comes from willow tree bark; the blood pressure drug captopril from the venom of a pit viper; warfarin, the widely used blood thinner, was derived from moldy sweet clover…
That's the hope, at least, of John Burnett, a heart failure expert at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. He and his colleagues have fashioned an experimental drug based in part on the venom of the snake, a tree-dwelling relative of the cobra that is found in eastern Africa.
The drug is designed to help solve a vexing medical dilemma in treating patients with acute heart failure: how to provide effective relief to the heart without hurting the kidneys. A 40-patient midstage, or phase 2, clinical trial of the drug, called CD-NP, is currently enrolling patients to get an initial read on the compound's safety and ability to relieve symptoms in heart failure patients. Plenty of work remains to determine if the drug is effective and whether it will make it to the market.
Wall Street Journal by Ron Winslow, 10/20/09