For more than 30 years, microgravity has been used to improve outcomes of crystal analyses through production of higher quality and larger crystals. Many crystals grown in microgravity are larger and more detailed than those grown on Earth, providing protein structures that are more accurate. This allows better structure-based drug designs while also informing improved strategies for drug manufacturing—with the end goal of more effective and affordable pharmaceuticals.
To outline the basic science requirements for a long-term protein crystallization program onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (the ISS National Lab) held a subject matter expert workshop in October 2015 with experts across the field of crystallography. The workshop covered the accessibility and timing of such a program, flight and ground resources, education, and funding.
The report compiled from the workshop outlines the participants and their presentations, discussions, and recommendations. The recommendations highlighted in the report are meant to initiate the path forward in establishing an ISS National Lab program for repetitive, low-cost crystallization in microgravity. An ISS National Lab crystallization program overview will be provided at the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research conference in October 2016.