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      Bristol Myers Squibb travels into space

      ByMonelo Gabriel

      Mar 24, 2023

      A Bristol Myers Squibb biotherapeutic experiment made its second trip to the International Space Station last week.

      The pharmaceutical company sent a selection of its protein-based medicines to the station’s national laboratory to investigate how best to produce them.

      Over several months, the researchers will study protein crystallization that occurs in the space station’s weak-gravity environment, conditions in which crystals can grow larger and better-ordered, according to a statement from the International Space Station National Laboratory. .

      The findings could help Bristol Myers Squibb improve the biomanufacturing of powerful drugs, such as those used to treat cancer. More specifically, it could allow them to reformulate drugs to be given in injectable doses, rather than intravenously.

      “Microgravity gives us higher-resolution crystals that offer insights we can harness to design new medicines,” Robert Garmise, associate director of materials science and engineering at Bristol Myers Squibb, said in the statement. “High-quality crystals growing in space give us a better understanding of how molecules interact than is possible on Earth.”

      The research materials will head into space as part of a resupply mission with SpaceX. The company last sent proteins into space in 2020, after NASA selected its research proposal on protein crystallization in microgravity.

      This research began in the summer of 2018, when Bristol Myers Squibb responded to a request for proposals from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), a nonprofit organization and administrator of the National Laboratory for the International Space Station. (ISSNL). That research led to the first space mission in 2020.

      The goal of this second mission is similar: to identify the physical conditions that result in large, high-quality crystals in microgravity, which could lead to a better understanding of how to one day make some of our biologic medicines in crystal form. A crystallized therapeutic agent could have greater stability and a more concentrated strength of dosage.

      BMS isn’t the only company seeing stars. In the spring of 2022, NASA awarded eight manufacturing companies funding to send projects to the International Space Station for further development, including work on stem cell therapies, photonics and additive manufacturing of organs.


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