This paper was originally presented as the Elsevier Lecture in July, 2012 at the International Society on Toxinology/Venom Week combined meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. In it, the author addresses the ancient history of venom and immunity, from the Silurian Era to the 1890s; the development of the first antivenoms; the impact of shifting political and economic pressures; the special case of Arizona; the relative stability of the 1960s through 1990s; the transition to regulatory compliance that took place at the time of the author's own research; and concluding thoughts regarding the instability of apparent success.Highlights:
▸ The use of antibodies as antitoxins against infectious and venomous agents developed over a century ago. ▸ War, the Great Depression, and international politics all influenced the course of antivenom development. ▸ In Arizona lack of antivenom resulted in smuggling and research, conducted by passionate individuals who ignored US FDA requirements. ▸ Formal clinical trials and US marketing approval of scorpion antivenom occurred 107 years after the first human testing of the concept. ▸ Commercial success of antivenom appears to depend more on social, economic and political factors than on potency, specificity, and purity.