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An Egyptian’s Self-funded Project to Develop Scorpion Venom for Medicinal Purposes

Surrounded by thousands of live scorpions in a laboratory deep in Egypt’s Western Desert, Ahmed Abu al-Seoud is a mechanical engineer who worked in the oil sector for almost two decades, Abu al-Seoud decided in 2018 to strike a different path — producing scorpion venom for pharmaceutical research purposes. “I was surfing the internet and saw scorpion venom was one of the most expensive on the market…So I thought to myself: Why not take advantage of this desert environment where they roam around?” Sand dunes and towering palms surround his laboratory, which he affectionately calls the “Scorpion Kingdom”. Biomedical researchers are studying the pharmaceutical properties of scorpion venom, making the rare and potent neurotoxin a highly sought-after commodity now produced in several Middle Eastern countries. To get the animals to secrete venom in the controlled conditions of the lab, the scorpions are given a slight electric shock. Workers wait 20-30 days between extractions to obtain the highest quality venom. The liquid is refrigerated and transported to Cairo, where it is dried and packaged for sale as powder. The laboratory “is certified (by the government) and has the ability to export this unique product. The self-financed project has so far cost around $320,000, and has also attracted government support.