Jessica Garb, Assistant Professor, Biological Science
UMass Lowell Assistant Professor Jessica Garb (Department of Biological Sciences) received a National Institutes of Health AREA grant award for $294,656 to fund her proposal, “Discovering Biomedically Significant Spider Venom Toxins With Genomics.”
Animal venoms are complex biochemical cocktails capable of diverse and extremely potent physiological effects. Venoms are also highly prized as novel sources of pharmaceuticals and are essential for the development of lifesaving antivenoms.
Garb is using the new technologies of next-generation DNA sequencing and mass peptide fingerprinting to provide an unprecedented understanding of the molecular basis for the extreme toxicity of black widow spiders. This will aid in the development of improved antivenoms and novel pharmaceuticals for a variety of treatments—from spider bites to chronic pain to cancer. Her work on the genomics of venom from black widow spiders will help to determine its molecular composition, functional activities and evolution.
This research has significant relevance for public health because black widow venom is extremely hazardous to humans, and also because it is also an essential tool in the study of vertebrate neurophysiology. This is Garb’s first principle investigator award. Previously, she received a post-doctoral fellowship award from NIH. Garb is also actively involved in studying the genetics and evolution of spider silks.