Dr. Baldomero "Toto" Olivera, a biochemist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT, may have discovered relief for thousands who suffer from intractable pain, epilepsy, or neurodegenerative disorders. For the past 30 years, Dr. Olivera has studied the cone snail species Conus geographus (C. geographus), an animal so lethal that one sting kills an adult within hours.
Cone snails are marine snails found in reef environments throughout the world. Their decorative shells have been a fancy for collectors worldwide. They belong to the family Conidae, genus Conus. There are more than 1,000 species known. Cone snails prey upon other marine organisms such as fish (piscivorous), mollusk (molluscivorous), and worms (vermivous). The Conus immobilize their prey with unique venoms that is either secreted into the water directly or injected into prey by a hallow harpoon filled with venom.