Last night, the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and Boeing [NYSE: BA] announced the 2019 awardees of their annual “Technology in Space Prize” competition, through which the two organizations jointly provide up to $500,000 in grants to innovative companies participating in the MassChallenge (Boston) startup accelerator.
This year’s awardees include Axonis Inc., which is developing breakthrough neuroregenerative therapies, and Encapsulate LLC, which looks to deliver personalized cancer therapy screening. These companies will now have an opportunity to deploy specific projects to the microgravity environment on the ISS National Lab to advance and accelerate their promising research and development toward solutions that address sizable value creation opportunities and needs on Earth.
Since its inception in 2013, the MassChallenge “Technology in Space Prize” has resulted in awards of more than $4.5 million to fund 27 projects from 26 companies across the life and materials sciences as well as technology development. These grants have provided seed funding for the awarded companies and assisted with hardware costs for flight to the ISS National Lab. The roster of past awardees includes innovative startups such as Angiex, LambdaVision, LaunchPad Medical, Ras Labs, MicroQuin, and others.
Brief summaries of the 2019 recipients of the Technology in Space prize are provided below:
Innovative paralysis therapy enabling neuroregeneration
Axonis is a biotechnology company developing a breakthrough neuroregenerative gene therapy for people who have suffered spinal cord injury. The company’s research and development efforts are based on a key scientific discovery that regeneration of central nervous system connections can be achieved by blocking a key enzyme that normally shuts down growth of the nervous system after development is complete. Axonis plans to develop therapies for other currently incurable neurological disorders as well.
The goal of Axonis’ ISS National Lab flight project is to generate a human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived three-dimensional culture model, which will mimic the human central nervous system and brain environment more closely than is achievable using monolayer neural cultures.
Personalized cancer screening using automated tumor-on-a-chip system
Encapsulate is developing an automated tumor-on-a-chip system that will grow patients’ cancer cells outside the human body and use these cells to screen chemotherapeutic drugs for efficacy, thereby allowing for improved decision-making to select a course of treatment. The company aims to initially target lung and colorectal cancers, given their prevalence, and has tested and validated its proof-of-concept product using human lung and breast cancer cell lines.
The awarded flight project aims to support the preclinical stage of Encapsulate’s product development and optimization, using patient-derived microtumors grown and maintained in microgravity as a tool and base model to evaluate the performance of microtumors grown in the company’s biochips.
We congratulate the 2019 awardees, as well as all of this year’s participants, and thank Boeing and MassChallenge for the continued successful partnership!
To learn more about the ISS National Lab and investment opportunities leveraging the unique environment and capabilities of ISS and low Earth orbit, please visit: www.ISSNationalLab.org/investment.