Tico Scientists Discover Substances of Natural Origin That Work as Snake Repellent

    Stemming from a postgraduate thesis in chemistry of student Mónica Alvarado Rojas

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    A research work of more than six years concluded in the discovery of substances of natural origin that work as a repellent for snakes. The laboratory work was carried out at the ClodomiroPicado Institute (ICP-UCR) and at the Natural Products Research Center (Ciprona-UCR), details the higher education institution.

    The research question posed by the ICP-UCR team more than 10 years ago found an echo in the postgraduate thesis in chemistry of the then student Mónica Alvarado Rojas, who with laboratory tests was able to verify that the components cause a flight reaction of the velvet snake.

    Currently, the researcher María Herrera Vega, from the Technological Development section of the Industrial Division of the ICP-UCR, explained that the behavior is repeated in other species of snakes present in the national territory.

    The details of the discovery are not publicly accessible, because it is in a process aimed at protecting intellectual property, which will give the University of Costa Rica the rights over the uses of the resulting innovation.

    Substances will be patented

    The team of researchers linked to the discovery includes six people, who are waiting for the patent application to be submitted in order to make the corresponding scientific publications.

    The uses of this next innovation can be linked not only to the prevention of snakebite accidents in humans, but especially its veterinary application. Commercially, it promises to be a solution to the losses caused by snake bites in cattle herds and also in domestic animals.

    In Costa Rica, previous research reveals that in the Central and South Pacific between 5% and 10% of cattle herds suffers from snake bites, and about 75% of the attacked animals die.

    “We work in the first stage of extraction with Ciprona-UCR, who are experts in natural products, but these are uncommon compounds and they could hardly handle the synthesis process with the budgets we currently have,” said Dr. Herrera when explaining that today they are waiting for quotes from international laboratories to get closer to a number that allows sizing the cost of the next stage of the project.

    The next step in the research is the synthesis of the compounds, which would allow the repellent to be produced at an industrial level in the future. In a third stage, the application mechanisms must be designed. And in a fourth stage, the product must be validated with other snakes from other regions of the world. This requires a significant investment of resources, which is why the University is willing to partner with companies that could be the licensees of the final product.

    Seeking financial support

    Currently, the Knowledge Management and Transfer Unit for Innovation (Proinnova-UCR) is negotiating with an English firm that is interested in evaluating the potential of the research, this firm would be willing to cover the costs of the remaining processes.

    To date, the research involved a considerable investment of financial resources by the ICP, which included the financing of an internship in a laboratory in Germany, all of which has been part of strengthening the invention, commented the current director of the ICP -UCR Dr. Alberto Alape.
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