Glenn F King (ed)

Royal Society of Chemistry

2015 | 320pp | £169.00

ISBN 9781849736633

Venoms to Drugs is the latest addition to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Drug discovery series and it is undoubtedly one of the more left field books in the line-up. Many of us will inherently think of venoms as the antithesis of medicine – they will kill you, while drugs attempt to provide the antidote. However, in Venoms to drugs, Glenn King skillfully builds the case that these toxins deserve more attention from medicinal chemists.

The book is well-constructed, starting with an overview of the evolutionary origins of venoms and how these relate to common structures, followed by a guide to modern bioinformatics methods and their application to research in this field. King also considers the principal medicinal properties of different venoms – reptile, scorpion and spider – and outlines the development of two drugs derived from them. These case studies are a welcome addition to the book, putting the previous chapters in context and proving that venoms have potential as a source of medicinal compounds.

King aims this book squarely at readers who are already proficient in medicinal chemistry. The tone of the writing is formal throughout, and many concepts in biological and medicinal chemistry are introduced without explanation. This is not to say that the lay reader will gain nothing from reading it – there are many nuggets of information that non-specialists will also enjoy.

Medicinal chemists will likely find the book to be an interesting addition to their structural repertoire. King is convincing when he argues that venoms are neglected as a field of study, mostly due to the difficulties in obtaining and purifying venom samples – King presumably finds this easier than most given his location at the University of Queensland, Australia. But he also notes their potencies and specificities make them attractive as a starting point for medicinal compounds. 

Even if the intricate details of venom evolution and structural biology are of interest to relatively few readers, this book will certainly cause its professional readership to give venoms a second glance in their own research.

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