The Venom Evolution, Function and Biomedical Applications GRC is a premier, international scientific conference focused on advancing the frontiers of science through the presentation of cutting-edge and unpublished research, prioritizing time for discussion after each talk and fostering informal interactions among scientists of all career stages. The conference program includes a diverse range of speakers and discussion leaders from institutions and organizations worldwide, concentrating on the latest developments in the field. The conference is five days long and held in a remote location to increase the sense of camaraderie and create scientific communities, with lasting collaborations and friendships. In addition to premier talks, the conference has designated time for poster sessions from individuals of all career stages, and afternoon free time and communal meals allow for informal networking opportunities with leaders in the field.
Venoms are mixtures of bioactive molecules (“toxins”) that exert their activities by being delivered into other organisms through the infliction of a wound, and thereby constitute key adaptations that cause a shift of antagonistic interactions with other organisms from the physical to the chemical domain. Venoms have evolved in a plethora of organisms—from plants to cnidarians to vertebrates—where they play a wide range of ecological roles, including predation, defense, intraspecific competition, habitat creation and even mating. Due to rampant evolutionary convergence, and the close association between venom and venom-associated traits, venoms are increasingly recognized as valuable models for studying evolutionary processes associated with novelty and adaptation. However, venomous animals also represent a substantial medical burden that disproportionally affects lower socioeconomic regions, where effective clinical treatment faces serious challenges such as poor infrastructure, high cost, and low efficacy of available therapeutics. Accordingly, human envenomations have been recognized as a Neglected Tropical Disease by the World Health Organization. At the same time, the toxins that comprise venoms are often exceptionally specific in their binding affinities and activities, making them tremendous resources for molecular tools and therapeutic leads. Indeed, toxins have historically been used as probes to understand many physiological systems—including the basic mechanisms of neurotransmission—and numerous toxin-derived compounds are currently being used therapeutically or are in clinical testing. Interest in venoms and toxins has also increased tremendously in recent years, due in part to new and highly sensitive technologies that allow even the smallest organisms to be investigated. The vast majority of venomous animals (some estimates surpass 200,000 species) remain unexplored, and the true potential of venoms as molecular probes, human therapeutics, and model systems in evolution is enormous. The 2024 Gordon Research Conference on Venom Evolution, Function and Biomedical Applications seeks to bring together excellent researchers that share an interest in venom but come from different fields of biology. This third iteration of the GRC on venoms brings together a diverse group of scientists from around the world, with vastly differing expertise across the many facets of venom research. We have made a particular effort to invite speakers that are rising leaders in their fields and have ensured that speakers include scientists that are gender, ethnically, and culturally diverse. These speakers include early career and established faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and advanced graduate students. As is characteristic of GRC/GRS, the 2024 Venom conference will promote an atmosphere of collaboration and open exchange of ideas, ensuring that a truly integrative approach toward understanding venoms and venomous organisms can be realized.
The conference will consist of nine sessions, on the topics listed below. The conference chair is currently developing their preliminary program, which will include the names of the invited speakers and discussion leaders for each of these sessions. The preliminary program will be available by November 15, 2023. Please check back for updates.