A drug developed using venom from the world’s deadliest spider has recently reached a new milestone by progressing to clinical trials.

Headed by researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ), the new drug reportedly uses a molecule from the venom of the K’gari (Fraser Island) funnel-web spider found to prevent damage caused by strokes and heart attacks.

Named IB001, the new drug candidate is progressing to clinical trials thanks to UQ’s commercialization company UniQuest licensing it to Brisbane startup company Infensa Bioscience, which will invest $23 million to develop it alongside the company.

According to UQ Principal Research Fellow, Infensa CEO, and Associate Professor Mark Smythe, there are currently no drugs that can prevent the damage caused by heart attacks, the leading cause of death in the world.

“The heart can’t regenerate muscle cells that die during a heart attack, which is why these injuries cause permanent damage and can lead to heart failure, disability, and reduced quality of life,” Smythe said.

He continued, “IB001 blocks the signals that cause heart cells to die, and when given immediately to heart attack victims could reduce damage to the heart and significantly improve outcomes for people with heart disease, particularly in rural and remote regions.”

Along with UQ’s Professor Glenn King, Associate Professor Nathan Palpant discovered IB001’s ability to prevent heart muscle cell death last year. It was also developed alongside Professor Peter Macdonald from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and Professor Rob Widdop at Monash University.

Per Smythe, the initial $23 million funding would be for the development of the drug alongside the establishment of the new startup.

“Infensa Bioscience hopes to start Phase I clinical trials as a heart attack treatment in Queensland next year. This is a game-changing technology that could have worldwide impacts and is being developed and funded right here in Australia,” he said.

The company also plans to raise more funds to support the development of drugs that can extend the life of donor hearts used for organ transplants and treat strokes.