By Dan Howlett @DanHowlett85
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Videographer / Director: Ruaridh Connellan
Producer: Dan Howlett, Nick Johnson
Editor: Ian Phillips
Tim Friede, 37, has self-inflicted more than 160 bites in his 16 years of research and is hoping his experiments will help to develop a human vaccine for snake bites.
To prove his self-immunisation theory works he recently took back-to-back bites from two of the world’s deadliest snakes – a practice which would have killed most humans within 15 minutes.
Tim said: “I’m probably the only person in the world who can take a bite back-to-back from a taipan and a black mamba and live.
“I will not stop doing this until the vaccine is in the field or I die.
“My arms were killing me after the bites, there is a real throbbing sensation but I felt great.
“I don’t think there are many people who could take those bites singular – let alone back-to-back.”
Unsurprisingly, his obsession with saving the tens of thousands of lives lost every year to snakebites has nearly killed him on a number of occasions.
He said: “I made a big mistake, back in 2011, I took two cobra bites.
“The first one was fine but on the second one I flatlined.
“I was in a coma and very nearly died - it was rough.
“Because it was so bad it’s really cool to be at this stage now where I can beat these bites.
“It was a big mistake but sometimes you’ve got to make those mistakes and get through them.
But his obsession to prove his theory on self-immunisation has had a devastating impact on life outside of his lab.
His wife divorced him in October after 20 years together when she finally had enough of Tim’s snake obsession.
Beth Friede, 35 said: “Me and the kids never came in first, sometimes not even second. The snakes were always first.
"I would say to him that he has a love affair with his animals.
“He pushed his family away and he has no relationship with his two sons.
“Every year his eldest comes to me and says, 'happy father’s day mum', pretty much all they know is me for a parent.”
She added: “I was always worried about Tim but I would never ask him to stop injecting himself with venom as he was doing important work.
“I was always scared of them so it was terrifying living with them for nearly 20 years – by the end of it I’d just had enough.
“My eldest son Steven who is 18 feels it more than my 11-year-old Brent but I think both of them think they have missed out on having a father.”
Tim keeps and immunises himself against five of the world’s most deadly snakes at his home in Wisconsin, USA.
He added: “I have a mojave rattlesnake, water cobras, PNG taipan, black mamba and western diamond back rattlesnake and I can take a bite from all of them.”
Despite the controversial nature of his experiments Tim does have some backing from the scientific community.
Dr Brian Hanley is a scientist who has worked in gene and vaccine therapy, he said: “I tend to like people who get out and do something really hard against the odds.
“Here's a guy with a high school education who self-taught himself some pretty sophisticated immunology and molecular biology.
“Tim has sky-high levels of antibodies to venoms.
“I haven't confirmed this, but the one set of tests on him that were done suggested that his total antibody levels are at least double normal. It isn't easy to do that.
“Arguing with Tim's results is like arguing with the sky being blue.
“There are things we can do short of millions of dollars, though. But doing it without a lab or funding has limits.
“Tim has taken it about as far as he can on a shoestring.”
Tim hopes that the pain he has suffered over the course of sixteen years will help to stop some of the 100,000 deaths caused by snakebites each year.
“Even when my wife was getting tired of me spending so much time with the snakes she knew how important my work was,” added Tim.
“It’s incredibly dangerous and some people may think I’m crazy and they would be right.
“But if you look through history most people who pursued self-testing were considered crazy but the results speak for themselves.
“When I get bitten it really hurts and it swells but that’s it.
“I started this because I wanted to self immunise incase I was bitten while handling my snakes but when I witnessed the results I realised that this could be used for the greater good.
“Too many people die from snake bites and I know that my vaccine will help them when it is fully developed.”