KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), July 15, 2019 – Many of the payloads heading to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory onboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will be experiments to advance biomedical research. Industrial biomedicine is a key thrust area for private-sector work in low Earth orbit.
The unique environment of the ISS National Lab enables novel biomedical research approaches for studies aimed at improving patient care on Earth.
Two of the payloads are sponsored by the ISS National Lab and Boeing. They both stem from the MassChallenge Startup Accelerator, the global nonprofit organization that offers mentorship, capital, and connections to investors and business partners to rapidly scale growth of high-potential startups.
- MicroQuin will launch a project called Microgravity Crystals. The project goal is to study the structure of a protein associated with breast cancer and several other diseases. Decades of microgravity research have shown that some proteins form larger, higher-quality crystals in space, allowing scientists to see more details about the protein’s structure. This project will crystallize both the target protein alone and the protein bound to a candidate treatment developed by MicroQuin. This study could enable improvements to this potential future treatment for breast cancer.
- Dover Lifesciences will crystalize complexes of human glycogen synthase proteins on the ISS. This work will increase information about the structure of the proteins and lead to the development of drugs to treat obesity, rare genetic disorders, and cancer.
The second of three planned projects by AstraZeneca is the study of microgravity on the production of monoclonal antibodies—these biological molecules can be developed and used as drugs to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases. Their work will further the understanding of antibody production and stability, which could shrink the drug development timeline and improve future manufacturing techniques.
The National Stem Cell Foundation is funding a payload focused on The Effects of Microgravity on Microglia 3-Dimensional Models of Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. They will study 3D neuroglial cell cultures from induced pluripotent stem cells of patients with these diseases. Previous studies show that microgravity increases proliferation and delays differentiation of some stem cell types. This research may ultimately play a role in the identification of neurodegenerative biomarkers and development of related therapeutics.
To learn more about all the ISS National Lab–sponsored investigations on SpaceX CRS-18, please visit the SpaceX CRS-18 Mission Overview.
SpaceX CRS-18 is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station no earlier than July 24 at 6:24 p.m. EDT.
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About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the ISS as the nation’s newest national laboratory to optimize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by non-NASA U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The ISS National Lab manages access to the permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space.
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