Celtic Biotech to start snake venom cancer drug trials


AN IRISH biotech company will this week begin human trials of a new cancer treatment derived from rattlesnake venom.

Celtic Biotech, founded in 2003 by businessmen John Reid and Dr Paul Reid, has developed a treatment for advanced cancer from a powerful protein found in rattlesnake venom.

The company will this week begin testing the drug, now known as CB24, on patients at the George Pompidou University Hospital, Paris, under the supervision of consultant cancer specialist Jacques Medioni.

Celtic Biotech expects the trials to last about a year. They are designed to highlight the therapeutic value and safety of the drug.

The Irish company discovered a protein in rattlesnake venom that causes malignant cancer cells to self-destruct, a process known as cell death.

Two independent studies, by the US National Cancer Institute and University of Texas MD Anderson cancer center, have confirmed the protein’s anti-cancer properties.

Celtic Biotech has been researching this for the last seven years and made a number of breakthroughs during that time. It has applied for a number of patents and highlighted its findings in scientific journals.

Former assistant US surgeon general, Dr Roscoe Moore jnr, who is on Celtic Biotech’s scientific board of advisers, says that CB24 provides a “promising approach”.

Dr Paul Reid has a degree in microbiology from Trinity College Dublin and a masters in neurobiochemistry from Imperial College, London. John Reid has a masters in management from Trinity College Dublin.

The company maintains its own colony of breeding rattlesnakes in the US. Rattlesnakes are found throughout north America, from southern Canada to Mexico. They are responsible for more than 80 per cent of snake bite fatalities in the US, and the vast majority of snake bite injuries.

However, they only attack when provoked and the bites are rarely fatal if treated quickly.

About one in four people in industrialised countries are likely to contract cancer within their lifetime. The World Health Organisation says that the disease killed about 7.8 million people in 2008.