Boston (MA), February 17, 2023 – Machine Bio, Inc., a biotechnology startup from Claremont, CA, has been selected to receive up to $500,000 in grant funding through the Technology in Space Prize in partnership with the MassChallenge startup accelerator program. The Technology in Space Prize is an annual award opportunity from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS) and Boeing [NYSE: BA] for qualified startup companies interested in leveraging the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory for research and technology development (R&D). Machine Bio seeks to validate proprietary technology for the synthesis of protein from a DNA template in a single step onboard the space station. The project was announced last night at the MassChallenge awards dinner in Boston.
The ISS and future space-based laboratories provide a valuable platform for drug discovery and development research and use-inspired science. However, methods for the production of pure proteins needed for drug discovery research require the cultivation of large volumes of cells and time-consuming purification steps that are slow and labor intensive. These methods are inefficient on Earth and infeasible for a space-based laboratory, so currently, proteins are produced on Earth and then launched to space. This makes it difficult to do iterative research, which is crucial to the drug development process.
Machine Bio has designed a cell-free technology that promises to cut the cost and production time for the synthesis of pure proteins. The company’s technology produces protein faster than traditional methods, using less labor and less space. Machine Bio seeks to utilize the ISS National Lab to validate the technology’s function in microgravity. In doing so, this may allow the company to advance its technology readiness level, bringing it closer to commercialization. The ability to quickly manufacture pure protein in space would be a significant advancement for biomedical research in low Earth orbit and will be crucial for studies on future spaceflight missions farther from Earth.
In-space production applications is a strategic focus area for the ISS National Lab. Applied research and development in this area demonstrates space-based manufacturing and production to enable new business growth and capital investment and to create scalable and sustainable market opportunities.
This marks the eighth time CASIS and Boeing have partnered to fund research for startups through the Technology in Space Prize in collaboration with the MassChallenge startup accelerator. Since its inception, the Technology in Space Prize has provided $9.7 million in funding to 30 startups for R&D sponsored by the ISS National Lab. Many of these investigations have already launched to station.
For example, biotechnology startup MicroQuin, a 2018 awardee of the Technology in Space Prize, launched an investigation to better understand the onset and progression of cancer. The project used 3D cell culture to examine cell signaling pathways involved in tumorigenesis (the process by which normal cells transform into cancer cells). MicroQuin also tested how cancer cells responded to a new cancer therapeutic the company has developed.
Other examples include LambdaVision, which took advantage of microgravity conditions to improve the manufacturing process for the company’s artificial retina, and RevBio (formerly LaunchPad Medical), which utilized the ISS to test an injectable bone adhesive to accelerate bone repair. Many startups awarded the Technology in Space Prize have gone on to obtain additional funding from outside sources to advance their research. In fact, subsequent to being awarded the Technology in Space Prize, the awardees as a group have raised more than 30 times the funding provided through the prize.
Grants awarded through the Technology in Space Prize provide seed funding and assist with hardware costs for a flight project using ISS National Lab flight and crew time allocation. To learn more about applying for the Technology in Space Prize, view entry information on the MassChallenge webpage.
The ISS National Lab is managed by CASIS through a Cooperative Agreement with NASA. Final award of any grant money is contingent upon acceptance of legal terms and conditions between Machine Bio, CASIS, and Boeing.
To learn more about the ISS National Lab, including current research announcements to propose projects that leverage the orbiting platform, please visit www.ISSNationalLab.org.
# # #
About the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory: The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under Cooperative Agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit www.ISSNationalLab.org.
# # #