The University of Melbourne’s collaboration with the University of Papua New Guinea began in 2005 with the start of prospective studies of snakebite at Port Moresby General Hospital by Dr David Williams. This productive relationship was the catalyst for establishing the Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre within vacant space at the UPNG School of Medicine and Health Sciences in 2012.
Construction of the laboratory was funded by a grant from the PNG Office of Higher Education, while laboratory equipment was supplied by the University of Melbourne with funding from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
Our modern laboratory was designed to enable CCTC to undertake detailed studies of the effects of snake venoms on the blood of snakebite victims, and the bulk of this work is carried out on our Diagnostica Stago STA Compact Haemostasis Analyser – a specialised robotic bioassay platform that can identify blood clotting abnormalities and blood protein deficiencies.
The laboratory also houses a Boule Swelab 3-part differential Haematology Analyser that it uses to conduct full blood cell counts in samples from snakebite patients. We also run a Fisher-Scientific Microplate Reader platform that enables us to carry out sensitive, quantitative immunoassays to measure specific venom protein levels in the blood of snakebite patients, both before and after antivenom treatment, so that the effectiveness of antivenom treatment can be accurately determined.
The work of students studying snake venoms is made possible with a range of biochemistry and molecular biology apparatus, including SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis systems and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Mastercycler.
Medium-term future laboratory expansion would introduce facilities for the quality control of venoms and antivenoms, and the clean room filling of antivenom vials from bulk antivenom stocks.