Staff Profile: Dr. Nicholas Casewell
Dr. Nicholas Casewell, B.Sc., Ph.D.
Appointment: Lecturer, Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit
Areas of interest: Reconstructing the evolutionary history of venom systems and their toxic components to understand the molecular basis for such adaptations and ensuing variation in venom composition. Investigating parallel evolution of venom components found in different animal lineages. Utilising ‘omic’ data to investigate the relationship between the genome, transcriptomes and proteomes of venomous animals and how this relates to venom production. Investigating how snake venom variation impacts upon antivenom therapy. Testing the immunological cross-reactivity, safety, stability and efficacy of snake antivenoms and the development of novel methods for their manufacture.
Background: Dr. Casewell was a graduate of the University of Liverpool (BSc Tropical Disease Biology), during which time he also studied at the Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Casewell’s interest in snake venom research developed at this point, ultimately resulting in a PhD studentship at Bangor University where he studied the composition, evolution and immunology of saw-scaled viper venoms and their antivenoms. The result of Dr. Casewell’s PhD research saw him nominated as a finalist for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution’s young researcher prize, the Walter M. Fitch Award, in 2011. Subsequently, Casewell became Antivenom Manager for the UK manufacturing company MicroPharm Limited, in a commercial and academic collaboration with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. In 2012, Casewell was awarded an Independent Research Fellowship from the Natural Environment Research Council, UK to investigate the evolution and composition of different fish venoms, returning to Bangor University to conduct the research. In 2014, Casewell was appointed as a Lecturer in the Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
Research: Casewell’s research focus is to understand the mechanisms by which variation in venom (toxin) composition, which can be medically-important by undermining antivenom efficacy, is generated. This research involves utilising ‘omic’ technologies (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics) to (i) investigate the evolutionary history of venom in different animal lineages, (ii) detect venom variation at different taxonomic levels and (iii) investigate the processes that alter the transcription and translation of toxin gene loci. Such studies have included the publication of the first snake genome sequences. Casewell’s research also focuses on applying novel techniques to improve the specificity and efficacy of snake antivenom therapies and assessing how venom variation affects the functional activity and pathology induced by venoms.
- Editorial board member for the scientific journal “Toxins”
- Member of the “International Society on Toxinology”, the “Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution” and the “Society for the Study of Evolution”
- Scientific manuscript reviewer for: Molecular Biology and Evolution, Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, Journal of Proteomics, Journal of Molecular Evolution, BMC Genetics, BMC Genomics, Toxicon, Copeia
2013-2016 European Commission Marie Curie Actions International Research Staff Exchange Scheme. “Bites”. £217,618. P-I A. Malhotra (Bangor University). NR Casewell, project partner.
2012-2015 Natural Environment Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. “Origin, evolution and functional diversification of a chemical arsenal: venom in bony and cartilaginous fish”. £293,004. NR Casewell.
2012-2015 Leverhulme Trust Project Grant. “Has defence dictated the evolution of venom composition in spitting cobras?”. £209,171. P-I RA Harrison (LSTM). NR Casewell, named researcher and co-author.
2012-2013 University of Queensland Travel award for International Collaborative Research. £1,600. NR Casewell.
2011 Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution Walter M. Fitch Conference Travel Award. £1,000. NR Casewell.
Jesupret C, Jackson TNW, Ali SA, Baumann K, Yang D, Greisman L, Kern L, Casewell NR, Undheim EAB, Koludarov I, Debono J, Low DHW, Rossi S, Panagides N, Winters K, Ignjatovic V, Summerhayes R, Jones A, Nouwens A, Dunstan N, Hodgson WC, Winkel K, Monagle P, Fry BG. 2014. Vintage venoms: proteomic and pharmacological stability of snake venoms stored for up to eighty years. Journal of Proteomics. In press.
Al-Abdulla I, Casewell NR, Landon J. 2014. Single-reagent one-step procedures for the purification of ovine IgG, F(ab’)2 and Fab antivenoms by caprylic acid. Journal of Immunological Methods 402, 15-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jim.2013.11.00119.
Vonk FJ*, Casewell NR*, Henkel CV, Heimburg A, Jansen HJ, McCleary RJR, Kerkkamp HME, Vos R, Guerreiro I, Calvete JJ, Wüster W, Woods AE, Logan JM, Harrison RA, Castoe TA, de Koning APJ, Pollock DD, Renjifo C, Currier RB, Salgado D, Pla D, Sanz L, Hyder AS, Ribeiro JMC, Arntzen JW, van den Thillart GEEJ, Boetzer M, Pirovano W, Dirks RP, Spaink HP, Duboule D, McGlinn E, Kini RM, Richardson MK. 2013. The king cobra genome reveals dynamic evolution and adaptation in the snake venom system. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 110(51), 20651-20656. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1314702110. Cover article. *these authors contributed equally.
Castoe TA, de Koning APJ, Hall KT, Card DC, Schield DR, Fujita MK, Ruggiero RP, Degner JF, Daza JM, Gu W, Reyes-Velasco J, Shaney KJ, Castoe JM, Fox SE, Poole AW, Polanco D, Dobry J, Vandewege MW, Li Q, Schott R, Kapusta A, Minx P, Feschotte C, Uetz P, Ray DA, Hoffman F, Bogden R, Smith EN, Chang BSW, Vonk FJ, Casewell NR, Henkel C, Richardson MK, Mackessy SP, Bronikowski AM, Yandell M, Warren WC, Secor SM, Pollock DD. 2013. The Burmese python genome reveals the molecular basis for extreme adaptation in snakes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 110(51), 20645-20650. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1314475110.
Casewell NR, Wüster W, Vonk FJ, Harrison RA, Fry BG. 2013. Complex cocktails: the evolutionary novelty of venoms. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 28, 219-229. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.10.020. Cover article.
Brust A, Sunagar K, Undheim EAB, Vetter I, Yang D, Casewell NR, Ruder T, Jackson TNW, Koludarov I, Alewood PF, Hodgson WC, Lewis RJ, King GF, Antunes A, Hendrikx I, Fry BG. 2013. Differential evolution of domains: comparative evolution of Psammophis and Echis snake venom metalloproteinases (SVMP). Molecular & Cellular Proteomics 12, 651-663. doi: 10.1074/mcp.m112.023135.
Sunagar K, Fry BG, Jackson TNW, Casewell NR, Undheim EAB, Vidal N, Ali SA, King GF, Vasudevan K, Vasconcelos V, Antunes A. 2013. Molecular evolution of vertebrate neurotrophins: co-option of the highly conserved nerve growth factor gene into the advanced snake venom arsenal. PLoS ONE. 8(11), e81827. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081827.
Al-Abdulla I, Casewell NR, Landon J. 2013. Long-term physicochemical and immunological stability of a liquid formulated intact ovine immunoglobulin-based antivenom. Toxicon 64, 38-42. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2012.12.022.
Conlon JM, Attoub S, Arafat H, Mechkarska M, Casewell NR, Harrison RA, Calvete JJ. 2013. Cytotoxic activities of [Ser49] phospholipase A2 from the venom of the saw-scaled vipers Echis ocellatus, E. coloratus, E. pyramidum leakeyi, E. carinatus sochureki. Toxicon 71, 96-104. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2013.05.017.
Casewell NR, Huttley GA, Wüster W. 2012. Dynamic evolution of venom proteins in squamate reptiles. Nature Communications 3, 1066. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2065.
Casewell NR. 2012. On the ancestral recruitment of metalloproteinases into the venom of snakes. Toxicon 60(4), 449-454. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2012.02.006.
Fry BG, Scheib H, Junqueira-de-Azevado ILM, Silva DA, Casewell NR. 2012. Novel transcripts in the maxillary venom glands of advanced snakes. Toxicon 59(7-8), 696-708.
Fry BG, Casewell NR, Wüster W, Vidal N, Young B, Jackson T. 2012. The structural and functional diversification of the Toxicoferan reptile venom system. Toxicon 60(4), 434-448. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2012.02.013.
Casewell NR, Wagstaff SC, Harrison RA, Renjifo C, Wüster W. 2011. Domain loss facilitates accelerated evolution and neofunctionalization of duplicate snake venom metalloproteinase toxin genes. Molecular Biology & Evolution 28(9), 2637-2649. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msr091.
Casewell NR, Wagstaff SC, Harrison RA, Wüster W. 2011. Gene tree parsimony of multi-locus snake venom protein families reveals species tree conflict as a result of multiple parallel gene loss. Molecular Biology & Evolution 28(3), 91-110. doi: 10/1093/molbev/msq302.
Harrison RA, Cook DA, Renjifo C, Casewell NR, Currier RB, Wagstaff SC. 2011. Research strategies to improve snakebite treatment: challenges and progress. Journal of Proteomics 74(9), 1768-1780. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2011.06.019.
Williams DJ, Gutiérrez J-M, Calvete JJ, Wüster W, Ratanabanangkoon K, Paiva O, Brown N, Casewell NR, Harrison RA, Rowley P, Jensen SD, Winkel KD, Warrell DA. 2011. Ending the drought: new strategies for improving the flow of affordable, effective antivenoms in Asia and Africa. Journal of Proteomics 74(9), 1735-1767. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2011.05.027.
Casewell NR, Cook DAN, Wagstaff SC, Nasidi A, Durfa N, Wüster W, Harrison RA. 2010. Pre-clinical assays predict pan-African Echis viper efficacy for a species-specific antivenom. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 4(10), e851. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000851.
Casewell NR, Harrison RA, Wüster W, Wagstaff SC. 2009. Comparative venom gland transcriptome surveys of the saw-scaled vipers (Viperidae: Echis) reveal substantial intra-family gene diversity and novel venom transcripts. BMC Genomics 10, 564. doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-564.