Andreas Hougaard Laustsen

Young researcher receives 10 M DKK to develop antivenom

Monday 28 Jan 19


Andreas Hougaard Laustsen
Associate Professor
DTU Bioengineering
+45 29 88 11 34


Mette Haagen Marcussen
Head of Communications
DTU Bioengineering
+45 23 71 23 10

The grant will be used to develop the first generation of snakebite antivenom based on fully human antibodies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 5.4 million people are bitten by snakes every year worldwide. About 138,000 of them die, and roughly three times as many require amputations or suffer other permanent effects. Drug companies have no focus on the area because most snakebite victims come from poor regions, where there is no potential for big profits from new medicine. In 2017, snakebite poisoning was therefore added to WHO’s
list of the most neglected tropical diseases.

"This allows us to develop antivenom that is effective against the toxins of multiple snake species, and can be given in exceptionally low doses and still be effective. We will make the antivenom cheaper and safer for snakebite victims around the world"
Associate Professor Andreas Hougaard Laustsen

The only treatment for snakebite is antivenom. But even those fortunate enough to receive the correct antivenom in time have a high risk of serious side effects, because current antivenoms are based on antibodies isolated from immunized horse blood. When these antibodies enter the human body, the immune system can react strongly and cause anaphylaxis—a serious and sometimes life-threatening allergic reaction that affects circulation and breathing.

Andreas Hougaard Laustsen became a member of WHO’s working group for snakebite poisoning in 2017. For the past two years he has headed the Tropical Pharmacology Lab research group, where BSc, MSc, and PhD students and postdocs, have been working to develop snake antivenom.

Andreas Hougaard Laustsen will use the DKK 10 million grant from VILLUM FONDEN’s Young Investigator programme to employ two PhD students and two postdocs, who will carry on the work of developing the new generation of antivenom.

“We had our first major breakthrough in 2018, when we succeeded—in collaboration with researchers from Instituto Clodomiro Picado in Costa Rica and IONTAS from Cambridge in England—in using a biotechnological method to produce and propagate human antibodies against black mamba venom. With the grant from VILLUM FONDEN, my group now has the opportunity to take things to the next level and develop human antibodies with specific binding characteristics. These give the antibodies broad-spectrum cross-reactivity and enable ultra-low doses in patients. This allows us to develop antivenom that is effective against the toxins of multiple snake species, and can be given in exceptionally low doses and still be effective. We will make the antivenom cheaper and safer for snakebite victims around the world,” says Associate Professor Andreas Hougaard Laustsen, who is also very pleased with the opportunities the grant offers him to develop his research and leadership competences.

The VILLUM Young Investigator programme provides funding for highly talented younger researchers within technical and scientific research. VILLUM Young Investigator grants are targeted at researchers just starting their careers, to ensure they can pursue the ideas they are most passionate about. They are also often used to establish research groups and employ more young researchers (postdocs and PhD students) to carry out the specific projects, which typically run over 3-5 years. This year, the foundation awarded DKK 205 million to 21 young researchers from four Danish universities. Read more in the foundation’s press release.


Andreas Hougaard Laustsen’s scientific distinctions

2017 The Lundbeck Foundation Talent Prize
2017 35 Innovators under 35, MIT Technology Review
2017 Finalist in the PhD Cup, Danmarks Radio
2017 Top 6 academic entrepreneurs under 35 in Europe,
2017 Forbes 30 under 30 Europe, Forbes Magazine
2016 Top 10 European biotech entrepreneurs under 30,
2016 Postdoc in research in the area of biotech synthesis and production, Novo Nordisk Foundation
2016 Leader of tomorrow, Global Biotech Revolution
2015 EliteForsk Travel Grant, the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science
2014 Denmark’s ‘coolest’ engineer, Engineer The Future

Andreas Hougaard Laustsen CV

2018-                  Associate Professor, DTU Bioengineering             
2016-2018          Postdoc, DTU Bioengineering
2017-    Adviser in the WHO Working group for the prevention and treatment of snakebite poisoning
2014-2016          PhD in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, University of Copenhagen

Co-founder of

2018      VenomAid Diagnostics
2017      Bactolife ApS
2017      Antag Therapeutics ApS
2017      Chromologics ApS
2013      VenomAb IVS
2012      Biosyntia ApS

Uddeling af <villum <young Investigator

Photo of all Villum Young Investigator recipients from the award ceremony on 23.1.2019.

Photo: Villum Fonden

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