According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona is home to the most dangerous rattlesnakes, spiders, lizards, and scorpions in the nation. So it is appropriate that researcher and veterinarian Dr. Craig Woods of BioVeteria Life Sciences chose Prescott as the home of his new business venture. BioVeteria is a new bioscience company that is developing neutralizers for rattlesnake and scorpion venom for our animal friends.
“We estimate there are about 7,000 rattlesnake bites in humans every year. There are 20 times that in dogs and cats. It overshadows human need by 20 times. We are in great need of better antivenoms,” said Woods, who was approached fours years ago by Institito Bioclon, a world leader in human and animal antivenom development. “The group, located in Mexico City, is a global leader in cobra, deathstalker scorpion and recluse spider antivenoms. They have a state-of-the-art, world class facility and just had one of their antivenoms approved by the FDA for human use.”
At that time, Woods headed Animal Health Consulting, which helped pharmaceutical companies develop their products for the veterinary industry. “I was one of the few private veterinarians that did this for a living. I took them [Institito Bioclon] on from a client standpoint, but then it turned into a full-time job. The research project morphed into a company based around the technology.”
BioVeteria is the result of that metamorphosis and is now doing the research and evaluation necessary to bring the rattlesnake and scorpion antivenoms to the U.S. veterinary market. Clinical trials are part of the process to get the antivenoms safety tested and approved for use. Woods oversees most of the clinical trials that are taking place in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego, Santa Fe, Tucson and locally at Prescott Animal Hospital.
“We do veterinary trials – not lab animal research – by engaging veterinary clinics where there are scorpions and rattlesnakes,” explained Woods, who pointed out that Prescott is centrally located for the drive to the trial sites.
“To make an antivenom is a very long, multi-phase process,” said Woods who projected a three- to five-year development cycle. “We are still pending approval, but the antivenoms are very well received.” Woods chose Prescott because of the city’s sense of community and Northern Arizona’s blossoming science corridor.
One of the agencies developing infrastructure for that science corridor is Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET). BioVeteria is an affiliate member of the Flagstaff-based business incubator. “In terms of an incubator success story, they really have their act together there,” said Woods, who has been involved with several business incubators in different parts of the country. “This isn’t their first rodeo – they have a very well-rounded program. Incubators can really bring a lot to the community.
“People wonder how to get the economy back on track, and historically, it has been through small businesses. Incubators are pivotal to making that happen in the community and the state [of Arizona] as well,” Woods added.
Jeff Saville, vice president at NACET said, “BioVeteria makes for a perfect incubator client because it is a biotech firm that is going to create lots of jobs for the region. We are required to be regional in scope, and Prescott is part of our region.”
Saville calls the antivenom currently being tested by BioVeteria a “disruptive technology.” Disruptive technologies are innovations that disrupt existing markets and eventually displace earlier technologies. “BioVeteria offers a totally different alternative to the way animals have been treated for venomous scorpion and snake bites in the past,” added the business development executive.
The third-generation antivenoms have biotechnological characteristics that make them different than their predecessors and neutralize venom by innovative means. “Our ability to solve these problems in veterinary medicine will spill over to the human health side as well,” promised Woods.
BioVeteria’s new products for veterinary medicine include antivenoms, optimized nutraceuticals, diagnostics and devices for veterinary applications.
Currently, BioVeteria employs fewer than five employees and uses some on a contract basis. Woods predicted, “Growth-wise, I would say in the next two to three years, we’d like to get 10-12 employees here, and realize that some of employees will be field-based. If we keep on track as we are, during the next few years, we’ll expand very quickly.” FBN
BioVeteria Life Sciences, LLC
1042 Willow Creek Rd: A101-482, Prescott
Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET)
2225 N. Gemini Drive, Flagstaff
Prescott Animal Hospital
1318 Iron Springs Road, Prescott
Photo by Bobbi Tucker inside Prescott Animal Hospital