New Chapter in Biopharma Research

Crystals in Space Nanoracks

After months of talking and listening to the biopharma community, and after the successful transportation to the space station on SpaceX-2 last week, a new chapter in biopharma research is now underway.

NanoRacks is working with Emerald Bio to support biopharma research using industry hardware and practices. Right now on the U.S. National Lab we have 24 proteins growing in hundreds of different solutions.This is only a first test step. The program is self-funded by NanoRacks and our intent is to work with CASIS and NASA to grow the program.

In a few weeks the astronauts will take the proteins and examine them under the NR microscope, allowing the researchers on the ground to see if there has been any growth in the protein crystals. By doing a first-level examination while on-orbit it allows researchers to see some results in the event the proteins are damaged on the return mission, which happens more times than one wants. Then the proteins will be returned to the earth for further examination.

The NanoRacks business model is simple but novel: a permanent space station means we can develop fully an on-orbit biopharma laboratory packed with facilities that are the same used in laboratories everyday on the earth. This means the potential customer base is not limited to those with an understanding of the space-unique hardware, but to all crystallographers.

For years researchers have believed that growing proteins and other biological materials in microgravity could lead to medical breakthroughs given how differently the structures grow in the absence of gravity. Yes, there have been some tantalizing positive results, but not enough.

As usual, at NanoRacks, we are committed to using commercial practices, standard hardware, and the full resources of the International Space Station system to allow a robust research program to flourish. This week is just the start–and all of us can’t wait to see how far this new pathway takes us.

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