Along with supply and equipment cargo bound for the International Space Station, Space Shuttle Discovery STS-128 will carry an additional scientific payload being conducted by Austin-based Astrogenetix, the first commercial space company to use microgravity to discover the foundation of new medicines.
Specifically, research will be conducted on Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella microbes in search of a potential target for a therapeutic agent or vaccine candidate. These bacterial microbes are known to cause hundreds of thousands of medically diagnosed infections every year around the world.
Astrogenetix has worked closely with NASA to fully utilize the International Space Station, one of NASA’s primary priorities. The Company has flown on five shuttle missions performing drug development in microgravity since its formation in early 2008, has been designated a National Lab Pathfinder and is slated to fly on all remaining shuttle missions.
“Through our unique Vaccine Processing Platform, we hope to discover new medicines in space that will benefit lives on Earth,” said John Porter, chief executive officer of Astrogenetix, and senior vice president and chief financial officer of parent company Astrotech Corporation.
When operated in microgravity, the Astrogenetix Vaccine Processing Platform dramatically reduces time-to-vaccine discovery because microgravity elicits unique interactions in biological systems that do not occur in terrestrial laboratories.
Returning samples from this flight will be examined and added to Astrogenetix’s growing database of biomarker research. Post-flight analysis will immediately ensue at terrestrial labs in search of specific drug candidates gleaned from the results.
“We’re really on the forefront of something big here,” said Thomas B. Pickens III, Astrotech’s chief executive officer and chairman of the board. “We have an acclaimed space science team, combined with the world’s most advanced technology, to lead the field of medical discovery into the next frontier.”
Astrogenetix, Inc. was formed by Astrotech Corp. to commercialize biotechnology products processed in the unique environment of microgravity. Over the last 25 years, Astrotech Corp. has supported the launch of 23 shuttle missions and more than 260 spacecraft, built space hardware and processing facilities, and prepared and processed scientific research for microgravity.