Mildura Weekly : Friday February 13 2015 Vol 9 No 14
NEWS 29 FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2015 MILDURAWEEKLY.COM.AU SAMPLES from some of Australia’s most venomous wildlife are helping Victorian scientists explore the medical potential of venom through Australia’s first publicly avail- able ‘venom bank.’ An initiative of the De- partment of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Arthur Rylah Institute, Mu- seum Victoria and University of Melbourne’s Australian Venom Research Unit, the Victorian Venom Bank has been established using funds from the McCoy Seed Fund. “Most Victorian snakes are venomous, as is the male Platypus and many inverte- brates, but there is limited knowledge about the venom of these animals,” ARI Senior Scientist Nick Clemann said. “We are establishing a bank of specimens for re- searchers investigating their potential use in medical and taxonomic research. “Ultimately we aim to have as many venomous spe- cies as possible in the col- lection, including snakes, spiders, scorpions and the Blue-ringed Octopus. “Each specimen will have a matching sample of its own venom stored. “We’ve been finding and catching venomous snakes, and milking them for their venom, and to date have secured specimens of Tiger Snakes, both Victorian spe- cies of Copperhead Snakes, White-lipped Snakes and Small-eyed Snakes.” Museum Victoria Man- ager of Genetic Resources, Joanna Sumner, said the collection will be available to scientists conducting re- search in a variety of fields, including development and refinement of antivenoms, development of pharmaceu- tical or medical applications and studies of the relation- ships within and between species. “This will be the first publicly available venom li- brary,” she said. “This is an exciting opportunity for us as we’ll be able to provide venom samples and matched tissue samples from speci- mens we hold in the State’s collection. “This means that re- searchers can use techniques such as next generation se- quencing to greatly extend the scope of current research on venom and its deriva- tives.” Australian Venom Re- search Unit Investigator, Ken Winkel, said the collabora- tion was an important step in encouraging research into “the diverse uses of venom.” “While the possibility of new drugs from venom leads is exciting, we also have an immediate inter- est in better understanding how good current antiven- oms are at neutralising the effects of Victorian snakes,” he said. “In particular little research has focused on the variation in toxins found in the various Tiger type snakes that we treat with Tiger Snake antivenom. “This project will begin by focusing on these types of snakes and their venom variation.” New initiative aims to ‘unlock’ potential of Victorian venom • VENOM STUDIES: The newly created Victorian Venom Bank has begun collecting samples from some of the State’s most venomous wildlife, including the Brown Snake (PICTURED), with the aim to help researchers ‘unlock’ the venom’s potential. • From previous page Some, like Birnie, re- sponded to Howard’s letters, Most didn’t. Some of the ones who wrote back were offensive in the extreme, rude and arrogant. They included one ‘sicko’ who sent Howard a recipe...with her included! A few appeared to welcome mail contact with the author. Birnie fell into that cat- egory. Howard was happy to correspond with the killer, but didn’t want the brutal rapist and killer as a friend. “I intended to keep a careful distance from him, as I did all my research subjects,” she wrote. Howard wanted to know what made killers like Birnie tick. She said people outside crime circles seemed to be- lieve that killers are obvious, easily spotted in a crowd. “But if that was the case, how many potential victims would get into a car with some kind of drooling mad- man?” she asked. The answer was “not many!” Howard’s research found that killers are often suave, enticing, charm- ing, and engaging. Just like David Birnie. Howard says she made it clear she was interested only in his background. There were ground rules - no pho- tos, no pornographic mate- rial, no lingerie photos, noth- ing inappropriate, including bad jokes or swearing. Birnie agreed, and the pair corre- sponded weekly, discussing his case in detail, and getting his opinion on a variety of crimes. After three years, the let- ters turned into phone calls. They talked about Birnie’s growing up years. other cases that made the news, and jail time. Asked about his sen- tence “never to be released,” Birnie had replied; “The first seven years are the hardest. After that, each day is no dif- ferent.” One day, out of the blue, Birnie rang the author to simply thank her for being a friend over the years, tell- ing her she was one of the few people who understood him. He said the prison was cutting off contact between them. Birnie hanged himself in his cell that night. The case of David Birnie, and his defacto wife Cathe- rine, will shock readers. How- ard’s ‘Murder on the Mind’ doesn’t pull any punches. Her writing style is short, sharp and graphic - descriptive and shocking. The reader is left in no doubt as to the depravity of the people she is writing about....case after case...dat- ing back to the mid 1800’s. Some people will find it hard to put this book down, ifonlytoseeifthereisa worse case than the one they have just read. The author’s 24 years experience as a true crime author, fiction writer and serial killer expert shines through clearly. Her writing experience is based on an ongoing degree in criminology and psychol- ogy, as well as being the au- thor of nine books on a wide range of true crime cases. She has interviewed some of the world’s most heinous serial killers over two decades, and collected a vast pool of in- formation on various types of killers, their motives and rituals. Howard has appeared in many critically-acclaimed in- ternational documentaries re- garding famous serial killers, including Jack the Ripper, The Backpacker Killer and the Da- vid and Catherine Birnie case, as well as acted as a criminal consultant on many more. Murder on the Mind is available through New Hol- land Publishers. Murder on their mind LEAVE AND LIVE. Authorised by the Victorian Government, 1 Tr easury Place, Melbourne LEAVE AND LIVE. visit emergency.vic.gov.au call 1800 240 667 download the FireReady app Authorised by the Victorian Government, 1 Tr easury Place, Melbourne IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY LEAVE EARLY Check Fire Danger Ratings and warnings regularly.
Friday February 6 2015 Vol 9 No 13
Friday February 20 2015 Vol 9 no 15