BRAIN BOX interview – venom expert Assoc Professor Bryan Fry

BRAIN BOX interview – venom expert Assoc Professor Bryan Fry


I was only four years old when I announced
that I was going to make venomous snakes, my life’s work. And somehow I have managed
to turn that childhood passion into a career. And I reckon the world would be a lot nicer
place if more people followed their childhood dreams. The first one I got was a map showing Antarctica
and Australia, and that was to commemorate my trip down to Antarctica (obvious there). And then from there I got bio hazard tattoos and adrenaline on the back of my neck. I got Komodo dragons,CT
scans looking like weird angel wings, and then I have a huge abstract snake on my back
as well. So they are all very deeply personal to me and they are not sort of normal tattoos. If you know of anybody who takes high blood pressure medication, odds are they are taking a class of compound that interferes with Angiotensin-converting enzyme, also called ACE inhibitors. The founding
member of this was a drug called Captopril, which is actually a modified snake toxin.
So here we have a major drug class that’s all derivatives of a snake toxin and this
is an annual market of $10 billion, and you cannot over emphasise the medical importance
of this. It has saved countless lives. It gives me an opportunity to see not just these
creatures that I find so amazing and so wonderful, but also to see nature while it’s still out
there, you know before it is completely destroyed. I’d say my science hero is David Attenborough because
he is a scientist, he’s a trained ornithologist, he’s a trained bird researcher, in fact he
was head of the British Ornithology Society for many years. And he’s mastered the art
of science communication of distilling very complex subjects down to words anybody can
understand, but without sensationalising it. Stepping back, dropping his own personal adrenaline
down a bit and letting nature tell its own story.

Randy Schultz

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