Biotech in space?

Can the biotech and pharma make money in space? That was the question Congress posed at a hearing on the International Space Station's linkurl:future,;http://science.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=2167 held on Thursday (April 24). "I think I can," Tom Pickens, CEO of a spaceflight services company-turned biotech called SPACEHAB, told Congress. SPACEHAB has been sending up science payloads for the past 23 years. The company has mostly worked with government scientists, but when Pickens j

Edyta Zielinska
Apr 27, 2008
Can the biotech and pharma make money in space? That was the question Congress posed at a hearing on the International Space Station's linkurl:future,;http://science.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=2167 held on Thursday (April 24). "I think I can," Tom Pickens, CEO of a spaceflight services company-turned biotech called SPACEHAB, told Congress. SPACEHAB has been sending up science payloads for the past 23 years. The company has mostly worked with government scientists, but when Pickens joined in 2003 as a member of the board of directors, he had a team of engineers assess what kinds of research would be most commercially viable. To fit the bill, experiments had to be cheap to transport and provide an advantage - in efficiency, quality or capability - over what could be done on Earth. Two methods stood out: growing crystals for X-ray crystallography, and linkurl:vaccine production.;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53627/ So SPACEHAB is going from space transport to drug discovery. The company's "first...
;http://science.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=2167 held on Thursday (April 24). "I think I can," Tom Pickens, CEO of a spaceflight services company-turned biotech called SPACEHAB, told Congress. SPACEHAB has been sending up science payloads for the past 23 years. The company has mostly worked with government scientists, but when Pickens joined in 2003 as a member of the board of directors, he had a team of engineers assess what kinds of research would be most commercially viable. To fit the bill, experiments had to be cheap to transport and provide an advantage - in efficiency, quality or capability - over what could be done on Earth. Two methods stood out: growing crystals for X-ray crystallography, and linkurl:vaccine production.;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53627/ So SPACEHAB is going from space transport to drug discovery. The company's "first product will be a vaccine," said Pickens. But will investors bite? So far, said Bruce Pittman, a founding member of the Alliance of Commercial Enterprises and Education for Space, a group of pro-commercial space advocates, he hasn't seen any venture capital investment in this area, a fact that Pickens concedes. However, Pittman told The Scientist, "The stars are beginning to align." On April 18th, Space Florida, the state's aerospace development organization, announced that it would linkurl:partner;http://www.spacehab.com/news/2008/08_04_21.htm with SPACEHAB to help spur biotech in space, and awarded the company $90,000 in seed funding. The money will retroactively support infectious disease experiments SPACEHAB sent up in March 2008, and the follow-up experiment to be launched in May, to validate those experiments. Deb Spicer, spokeswoman for Space Florida, said that if the experiments are deemed successful, the agency plans to approve a larger contract, which is likely to be upwards of $100,000. (The exact amount has yet to be released.) Congress wants linkurl:verification;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53389/ "from someone that's not the science community" that conducting life science research in space can be lucrative, Pickens said. "The American people want a return on investment."

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