Dr Christie Wilcox is a freelance science writer and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. She currently pens the award-winning blog Science Sushi for Discover magazine. She never knows how to describe her ‘beat’, which includes genetics, marine science, venoms, and just about anything biology-related that makes her gasp in amazement. In 2016, her first book, a popular science, non-fiction work about venoms, will be published by FSG/Scientific American. In her ‘free’ time, she's the (perhaps overly) proud parent of several fishes, including a comically cute porcupine puffer and a few genetically modified glofish.
What is your feature about?
My feature is about the counterintuitive idea that venoms — which are considered to be deadly, harmful substances — may actually be the next great resource for game-changing pharmaceuticals. It's a topic very near and dear to my heart, as I have a special attachment to venomous animals from my dissertation work on venomous fishes and my continued postdoctoral research on venoms. I think snakes, spiders, and other venomous critters are often maligned, thought of as evil creatures that are harmful to other species, including ours. But these animals have so much to offer and are so important commercially, ecologically, and culturally.
What did you learn that you didn't expect?
Researching and writing this feature gave me a new appreciation for just how difficult it is to get a drug from compound to market. I tend not to think about all the hard work and time that goes into the various pills and liquids I pass when I'm walking down an isle at my pharmacy, but even the most common or benign-seeming drugs like Ibuprofen had to jump through a lot of hoops to make it onto those shelves. While I thought that I would be amazed by the animals and the usefulness of their venom compounds, I didn't expect to have this newfound respect for the words "FDA Approval"!
Read Chrstie’s feature on Mosaic, publishing 24 March 2015.