Professor Alan Harvey

Emeritus Professor

Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Personal statement

Alan Harvey is an emeritus professor of pharmacology in SIPBS. He studied pharmacy and then pharmacology, and has been an independent researcher since 1974. He works on the physiology and pharmacology of synaptic signalling, with particular interests in drugs and toxins affecting receptors and ion channels. He discovered the dendrotoxins, small proteins from mamba snake venoms that selectively block some types of potassium ion channels in neurons; these toxins have become standard pharmacological tools for investigating the role of particular ion channel sub-types in cellular physiology. In an extension to that work, he and collaborators in Sweden, Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay went on to discover other novel toxins with unusual chemical and pharmacological features: the fasciculins (the most potent and selective inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase), muscarinic toxins (the most sub-type specific compounds for studying muscarinic acetylcholine receptors), and the potassium ion channel blocking BgK and ShK; the last of these has formed the basis of an immunosuppressant drug that is in clinical trials. Recent toxin-related research was through involvement in a European consortium (“CONCO” - that explored the pharmaceutical potential of novel peptides from marine cone snails, particularly for treating patients with drug-resistant pain. He is President of the International Society on Toxinology ( andwas Editor-in-Chief of the journal Toxicon ( until 2017.

Together with colleagues in phytochemistry at Strathclyde, Alan Harvey has developed the use of natural products in drug discovery. This has been based on developing a facility for the rapid screening of chemicals on cell-based and molecular assays and on building up a world-wide network of natural product collaborators. The network involves groups in 20 different countries; it pioneered access and benefit-sharing arrangements for natural products that are compatible with the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity; and it created one of the most biodiverse screening collections available.

Alan Harvey has given many invited lectures at international conferences on toxins and venoms, natural products and drug discovery, and the academic-industrial interface. He has published extensively, with over 250 publications. On-going research activities include: 

  • discovery of new toxins that can be used as experimental tools to help understand the control of the excitability of nerve cells and the chemical signalling between nerves and muscles; and development of specific inhibitors of neuronal sodium ion channels as potential analgesics
  • linking with clinicians to study the underlying pharmacological effects responsible for currently unexplained symptoms of victims of envenoming by snakes
  • use of natural products in screening campaigns for potential leads for new medicines for cancer, inflammatory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and metabolic diseases and as antimicrobials and anti-parasitics
  • cell-based and molecular based drug discovery for prostate cancer
  • development of new assays for drug discovery projects
  • use of leads from traditional medicines in drug discovery projects for diabetes and trypanosomiasis


Friends or foes? Emerging impacts of biological toxins
Clark Graeme C, Casewell Nicholas R, Elliott Christopher T, Harvey Alan L, Jamieson Andrew G, Strong Peter N, Turner Andrew D
Trends in Biochemical Sciences Vol 44, pp. 365-379 (2019)
Individual variability of venom from the European adder (Vipera berus berus) from one locality in Eastern Hungary
Malina Tamás, Krecsák László, Westerström Alexander, Szemán-Nagy Gábor, Gyémánt Gyöngyi, M-Hamvas Márta, Rowan Edward G, Harvey Alan L, Warrell David A, Pál Balázs, Rusznák Zoltán, Vasas Gábor
Toxicon Vol 135, pp. 59-70 (2017)
Inhibitory Kappa B kinase α (IKKα) inhibitors that recapitulate their selectivity in cells against isoform-related biomarkers
Anthony Nahoum G, Baiget Jessica, Berretta Giacomo, Boyd Marie, Breen David, Edwards Joanne, Gamble Carly, Gray Alexander I, Harvey Alan L, Hatziieremia Sophia, Ho Ka Ho, Huggan Judith K, Lang Stuart, Llona-Minguez Sabin, Luo Jia Lin, McIntosh Kathryn, Paul Andrew, Plevin Robin J, Robertson Murray N, Scott Rebecca, Suckling Colin J, Sutcliffe Oliver Brook, Young Louise C, MacKay Simon P
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry Vol 60, pp. 7043-7066 (2017)
Toxicon : Letter from the outgoing editor
Harvey Alan
Toxicon Vol 132, pp. 18 (2017)
The re-emergence of natural products for drug discovery in the genomics era
Harvey Alan, Edrada-Ebel Ruangelie, Quinn Ronald J
Nature Reviews Drug Discovery Vol 14, pp. 111–129 (2015)
Toxins and drug discovery
Harvey Alan L
Toxicon Vol 92, pp. 193-200 (2014)

more publications

Professional activities

Improving the transition from toxins to medicines
19th Congress of the European Section of the International Society on Toxinology
High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (External organisation)
Slovenian Research Agency (External organisation)
Searching snake venoms for anti-cancer potential
19th World Congress of the International Society on Toxinology

more professional activities


McNeil, Brian (Principal Investigator) Edrada-Ebel, Ruangelie (Co-investigator) Harvey, Linda (Co-investigator) Harvey, Alan (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2012 - 30-Jan-2016
Knowledge Transfer Account / RA4685
Harvey, Alan (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2011 - 30-Jan-2012
Identification of antagonists to TGFB1 as therapeutic agents to inhibit scar formation (SULSA Screening)
Harvey, Alan (Principal Investigator) Flint, David (Co-investigator)
14-Jan-2011 - 31-Jan-2011
Screening for Drug Leads Against Clinical Isolates of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
Harvey, Alan (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2011 - 31-Jan-2011
Harvey, Alan (Principal Investigator) MacKay, Simon (Co-investigator)
29-Jan-2008 - 28-Jan-2013
A comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to target the inhibitory kappa B kinase pathway to discover novel therapies in prostate cancer
MacKay, Simon (Principal Investigator) Gray, Alexander (Co-investigator) Harvey, Alan (Co-investigator) Murphy, John (Co-investigator) Paul, Andrew (Co-investigator) Suckling, Colin (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2008 - 30-Jan-2014

more projects


Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
Robertson Wing

Location Map

View University of Strathclyde in a larger map