Baldomero “Toto” Olivera received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of the Philippines, a PhD in Biophysical Chemistry from Caltech and did his postdoctoral work at Stanford University. His early research contributions included the discovery and biochemical characterization of E. coli DNA ligase.
His laboratory initiated the identification and characterization of the biologically active peptides found in the venoms of predatory cone snails. This led to a broad involvement with molecular neuroscience, particularly the functional role of ion channels and receptor subtypes in nervous systems. The Conus peptide project has raised wide ranging biological questions, from mechanisms of protein folding and post-translational modification, to gene organization and mechanisms of speciation; several Conus peptides discovered in Olivera's laboratory are being developed as therapeutics and one is approved as a commercial drug.
Olivera is currently a Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of Utah and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.