Oshkosh venom lab hopes to debunk misconceptions, educate the public

Published: Jan. 25, 2020 at 10:29 PM CST
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Most people would think of a venomous animal as a potentially deadly problem to be avoided. One Winnebago County lab has spent about a decade using those venoms to save lives across the world. Now they want to share how they do that with others.

"These animals yes, they are dangerous, they pose a danger they can hurt you," said Nathaniel Frank. "Number one: they don't want to. And number two: they could someday save your life or someone you love." 9 sec

Frank, born and raised in Oshkosh, owns MToxins. The company, one of only nine of its kind in the world, extracts venom from snakes, spiders, and scorpions. Those venoms are then freeze-dried and sent worldwide to produce antivenom, various medications, and for medical research. Frank says venom is being used to create blood pressure medications, nonaddictive pain medications, and more.

"We just keep finding more and more fascinating things," said Frank.

But with a new downtown Oshkosh facility, Frank and his team plan to take the company to a new level.

"We expanded to an educational center to give back to the community," said Frank.

"This is going to be our first year open to the public, and the reason we're really excited is to be able to expand our opportunities for public education," said MToxins Director of Operations Megan Villand.

MToxins will educate the public through reptile exhibits, various programs, internships, and live extractions.

"We want to be an opportunity for people to come here and learn. From whatever background they come from, from whatever interest they have," said Villand. "I think this would be a great fit for chemistry students, it would be a great fit for environmental education students, for biology students, and there's just so many opportunities under this one roof that you might not necessarily think of when you think venomous snakes."

Frank and Villand are looking forward to sharing what they know.

"Just kind of being able to preach our message of respect for snakes and hopefully gaining a little bit of knowledge that can turn around that fear through understanding," said Villand.

Frank hopes to even inspire a younger generation of scientists.

"What my staff and I are really striving for is to inspire the next generation of scientists. So we're here to educate and to inspire, because the next great scientific mind could be right here in Oshkosh," said Frank.

The grand opening will be the weekend of May 22nd, but private tours can be scheduled in advance. To contact MToxins visit the company website