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Snail Venom: the new and improved opioid?

Venomous snail eating a freshly stunned fish.

A University of Utah research team is turning snail venom into a pain reliever they hope will replace highly addictive opioids.

800 different varieties can be found in the Phillipines, all with their own kind of venom.

“Hopeful that we can come up with a whole variety of different possibilities,” said Baldomero “Toto” Olivera, lead researcher on the project. “We really have a rich source of bio active compounds. We’re hoping to generate a whole pipeline of non-opioid drugs for pain.”

This comes as both Utah and the U.S. launched their own battles against the “epidemic” of people addicted to opioids. The team’s research was recently given an extra push when the Department of Defense granted nearly 10 million dollars to the project.

“There is a big unmet need for drugs for pain. The faster we get this through, the better.” Olivera said.

He wouldn’t attempt to estimate when they’ll see several of these drugs hit the market, but said one was approved by the FDA in 2004 and another is currently in testing.