Benefits for
Life Science

Over 2000 experiments on the ISS have proven the beneficial effects of
microgravity on biological systems. Sounds like science fiction to you?
Convince yourself and learn more about benefits for life sciences in microgravity.

Growing cell
cultures in three

Contrary to our planet, where cells are restricted in their
development, they can form complex 3D structures in
microgravity. This offers an entirely new perspective and
enables unexpected new discoveries when conducting
research on the behavior of cells, regenerative medicine
and the testing of drugs.

.1    Key fact
3D cell cultures reflect the real behaviour of cells in organisms more accurately, which is necessary for conducting drug discovery and modeling diseases
.2    Key fact
3D cell cultures are called spheroids or organoids. In microgravity, spheroids and organoids grow bigger and faster and they survive longer.
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human diseases

Ongoing exposure to microgravity initiates immune
dysfunction, bone loss, cardiovascular deconditioning and
loss of skeletal muscle. These artificial representations of
aging and existing diseases on Earth can be useful in
modeling human diseases. Therefore, microgravity enables
valuable insights and testing opportunities for therapeutics
in accelerated models of aging or disease.

.1    Key fact
The fact that microgravity accelerates aging was first discovered in astronauts. It has since been extensively studied on cell cultures.
.2    Key fact
To enable working with microgravity-accelerated aging models on Earth, microgravity simulating devices were developed.
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proteins and
large molecules

The structures of proteins and other large molecules define
their function. Crystallization is a crucial method for
studying the structures of biomolecules. Microgravity allows
molecules to create larger crystals of higher quality, which
gives scientists the opportunity to examine the functions of
molecules important for health and disease in an
unprecedented manner. Pharmaceutical companies can
therefore improve drug design for innovation in drug
manufacturing, storage, specificity and efficacy.

.1    Key fact
Crystals can provide a more efficient way of administrating biological therapeutics to patients.
.2    Key fact
Some therapeutics, e.g. antibodies, are biological macromolecules.
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In synthetic biology, the structures and mechanisms of life
are being recreated through back-engineering. This offers
the possibility of a deeper understanding and a better
leveraging of those structures and mechanisms. Space’s
extreme environment adds up to the tools used in synthetic
biology, bringing many benefits to the discipline.

.1    Key fact
When put under stress, many (micro)organisms adapt through natural selection. Leveraging the extreme environment of space for creating stress can lead to surprising results in artificial evolution.
.2    Key fact
Gravity is a force life has always been subjected to. Depleting cells and organisms from this force can help understanding and recreating some of life’s most fundamental and ancient mechanisms.
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Studying plant

Plants have the ability to “feel” gravity to know in which
direction to grow. In space, this reference point is not
presence, which has considerable effects on plant growth
and development. Studying these phenomena leads to
valuable insights into plant biology, useful for innovating the
ways humans use plants both on Earth and in space.

.1    Key fact
Life Support Systems are closed loops in which the waste generated from the production of one product feeds the organism producing the next product. They are used to avoid wasting the scarce resources available in space. Plants play an important role in such systems, as they are the main source of nutrients and raw materials for humans.
.2    Key fact
Implementing the knowledge of Life Support Systems on Earth can lead to more closed loops in the production of our food and many raw materials. This will in turn lead to more sustainable production paradigms.
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Microgravity strongly influences fluid dynamics and helps us
to better understand the complexity of biomedical devices
involving fluids. This is especially beneficial at nanoscale
level, where forces like diffusion are substantial.
Microgravity thus helps e.g. to improve drug delivery
systems or healthcare diagnostic tools.

.1    Key fact
The contents of cells are floating in the cytoplasm, a liquid. Therefore, fluid dynamics are important in understanding cellular processes.
.2    Key fact
This knowledge can be used to create devices and systems inspired from nature for more innovative healthcare.
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The Keytruda® success story

Keytruda® is an immune-oncologic therapeutic with a monoclonal antibody as active substance. The proteic nature of mAbs makes their manufacturing lengthy and expensive, their storage difficult and their delivery to patients long and invasive. Leveraging the sedimentation- and convection-free microgravity environment on the ISS, researchers from Merck & Co. were able to produce more uniform crystals for less viscous and more stable solutions. This could optimize manufacturing and formulation, providing easier storage and less invasive treatment.

The “mighty mices” against degenerative muscle and bone diseases

The loss in muscle mass and bone density during spaceflight is often studied in the context of degenerative muscle and bone disease. In one study, mice were genetically engineered to lack myostatin, the protein responsible for muscle growth-inhibition, then sent on the ISS. These mice did not suffer from muscle or bone density loss while in microgravity, contrary to the control wildtype. More interestingly, injecting a myostatin inhibitor into the wildtype during or after spaceflight led to an increase in both muscle mass and bone density.

Drugs from space against osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is an aging process in which bone remodeling imbalance leads to a critical loss in bone density. To study the efficiency of osteoporosis drug candidates, potent models of the disease are needed. As the microgravity environment leads to accelerated aging, it can be used to produce quicker and better disease models for drug discovery. This is illustrated by the space-flown mice used to test the efficacy of two potential osteoporosis drugs by the company Amgen, namely Evenity and Prolia.

In-space printed organs

Cell cultures can greatly benefit from microgravity. On Earth, cells grow in two dimensions but in absence of a force pushing them down, they build three-dimensional structures more similar to their physiological environment. This was the inspiration for developing 3D bioprinters for manufacturing human tissue in microgravity. The multiple applications for this technology are fascinating, ranging from solving organ transplant issues to developing better models for preclinical drug development.

Meet our scientists

Daniela Bezdan

Chief Scientific Officer

Daniela has degrees in Biotech Engineering, Genomics, and Bioinformatics at Cornell, Max Planck , EMBL/CRG with publications in Cell, Science, Nature. Besides co-authoring more than 17 space biology-related papers she is co-chair of NASA GeneLabs Microbiome , ISSOP and ESA Space Omics. She was among the top 4% ESA astronaut candidates, co-founded Poppy Health, was CSO at Bumrungrad hospital and is now leading yuri’s transition to a biotech company.

Christopher Mason

Scientific Advisory Board

Christopher Mason is a professor of Genomics, Physiology and Biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine New York. Chris has published over 275 publications in journals like Cell, Science, Nature and has been cited almost 30,000 times. He and his team completed the first-ever sequencing of DNA on the ISS. Among other awards, he won the “Brilliant Ten” scientist of Popular Science. And if you want to know what he is really up to, check out his great book “The Next 500 years”.

Jessica Pietsch

Science Coordinator

Jessica studied chemistry at the Free University of Berlin and completed her PhD in biochemistry in a research group at the Charité Berlin on “Proteome analysis of human thyroid cells cultured under simulated microgravity”. She participated in several scientific space experiments (SIMBOX on ShenZhou-8, Cellbox-1 and SPHEROIDS on ISS).

Stefan Oschmann

Pharma Advisor & Investor

Stefan Oschmann started his career in pharma occupying diverse managing positions at MSD. He then worked at Merck, starting by leading the Healthcare department and developing the global strategy to become CEO of Merck in 2016. With his award-winning leadership skills he served Merck until 2021. Currently, Stefan works as chairman at both UCB and AiCuris Anti-infective Cures.

Afshin Beheshti

Scientific Advisory Board

Afshin has a PhD from Florida State in physics and made a transition to cancer, systems biology, space biology, and radiation biology. As Assistant Professor at Tufts University he worked in the areas of cancer incl. microRNAs, aging and novel immunotherapies. He holds positions at NASA Ames, Nasa Genelabs and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard where he works on microRNAs and mitochondria in space, COVID-19 and the impact of high altitude on human biology.

Richard Barker

Scientific Advisory Board

Richard holds a PhD from the University of Nottingham and has over 10 years of experience as a NASA funded space biology researcher with 6 ISS experiments under his belt. As part of being co-chair of the NASA Genelabs Plant Analysis he provides access to space biology data. He was a selected representative of the American Academy of Science at the Future Leaders in Space Science and won the Thora Halstead award.

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