inVentiv Influencers: Article By Abigail Perrault; Copywriter - GSW NYC

Adelaide, Australia – With its duck-like bill and otter-like body, the Australian platypus is primarily known for its strange looks. In fact, early European scientists first doubted its existence as a species, believing, rather, that it was the product of two different animals sewn together. But according to a recent discovery, the platypus may have more to offer than its bizarre exterior. Researchers have pinpointed an unlikely characteristic of the species that has nothing at all to do with its baffling appearance.

This semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammal, along with the Australian echidna, may hold the key to treating type 2 diabetes. And the proof is in the poison.

During mating season, male platypuses ward off competitors by ejecting a poisonous substance from venomous spurs located on their hind feet. The venom contains a form of long-lasting GLP-1, a hormone that drives the release of insulin.

People living with type 2 diabetes typically develop a resistance to insulin, which is needed to keep blood glucose levels balanced. The pancreas often ceases to produce enough insulin to compensate for this resistance, and blood glucose levels continue to rise.

Many animals, including platypuses and humans alike, produce GLP-1 in the gut. However, this form of the molecule gets degraded shortly after being released from the intestinal cells. But the GLP-1 found in platypus venom is broken down differently; it resists rapid destruction.

So for those looking for a longer-lasting way to regulate blood sugar levels, this might just be the perfect poison to pick.

Scientists believe that this form of GLP-1 evolved overtime from a kind of biological warfare between the molecule’s competing roles in metabolism and venom production.


Thanks to years of intra-species competition and natural selection, there’s a stable form of GLP-1 that could give way to a more effective treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Although we often envision pharmaceutical innovation as the manipulation of man-made substances, much of the medicine we use today is either derived from, or designed to mimic, compounds found in the natural world. For instance, penicillin, though now created synthetically, originated as a bacteria-killing mold.

The medicinal potential that lies in studying animals and plants in existence is vast. Biomimicry has served the scientific community for centuries, and will likely continue to inform scientific advancement in the pharmaceutical industry. Keeping a finger on the lively pulse of biological research may be key to understanding the future of medicine.

Abbey Perreault is a copywriter at GSW, interested in women's health, neuroscience, and the history of scientific storytelling. When she's not writing, she can be found running, making music, or thinking of ways to make tasteful puns.

About the Author:

As Strategist of Innovation, Drew is charged daily with championing innovative thinking and doing. Drew is part of a global team that leads new innovative ideas that attract different advocates among existing and potential brands that are shared across all agency partners. Drew is backed by over 16 years of brand, sales and marketing experience with Fortune 500 companies such as Progressive and Nationwide Insurance as well as Founder & President of his own healthcare insurance agency for 6 years. Most recently Drew was part of the agency team that launched Briviact for UCB, Foundation Medicine as well as key roles with Eli Lilly Oncology and Johnson & Johnson.