KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (September 10, 2012) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) – manager of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory – today announced that it is collaborating with global healthcare company Merck to conduct cutting-edge therapeutic research on board the ISS in 2013.
The ISS-based research will focus on therapeutic monoclonal antibodies (MABs), which are engineered proteins designed to bind to targets that cause disease, potentially allowing greater specificity than conventional therapies with fewer side effects.
Scientists involved in the study hope that this research could ultimately lead to the development of new drugs and therapies to treat human immunological disease, as well as attract additional scientists wishing to conduct advanced research in space.
“Our collaboration with Merck creates a game-changing opportunity to advance pharmaceutical breakthroughs on board the ISS,” said CASIS Interim Executive Director Jim Royston. “This work will demonstrate the scientific and economic advantages of conducting therapeutic research in space, and the benefits it will have for human health right here on Earth.”
"We at Merck are excited to work with CASIS and explore the microgravity effects on several bio-processing applications within the unique environment of the ISS National Lab," said Paul Reichert, Chemistry Research Fellow, Merck Research Laboratories.
In July, CASIS announced its first Request For Proposals (RFP), focused on advancing protein crystallization using microgravity. Additionally, last week CASIS announced an RFP focused on materials testing in the extreme environment of space. Proposals for this RFP will be accepted until October 24, 2012.
The final agreement with Merck is dependent on approval by CASIS’ valuation and prioritization process — a requirement for all ISS projects. If approved, the research will begin in mid-2013.
About CASIS: The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space was selected by NASA in July 2011 to maximize use of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. CASIS is dedicated to supporting and accelerating innovations that will enhance the health and wellbeing of people and our planet. The CASIS goal is to bring the magic of space down to earth. For more information, visit www.iss-casis.org.
About the ISS National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the International Space Station as the nation's newest national laboratory to maximize its use for improving life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users and advancing STEM education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by other U.S. government agencies and by academic and private institutions, providing access to the permanent microgravity setting, vantage point in low earth orbit and varied environments of space. The ISS National Laboratory Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center currently facilitates research initiatives on board the station’s National Lab, but management of America’s only in-orbit laboratory is transitioning to CASIS.