A Salmonella vaccine should be in human trials by next year because of last month’s successful mission by Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-128) to the International Space Station and innovative research by a Texas company.
If successful, the vaccine could help the 1.4 million Americans who annually are infected by Salmonella avoid the illness, eliminating the need for 15,000 annual hospital stays, and saving 400 from death each year.
Also, a successful vaccine could greatly enhance the image and value of Space-based research.
Austin-based Astrogenetix, the first commercial space company to use microgravity to discover the foundation of new medicines, is the venture riding with NASA.
Bacteria and viruses grow more rapidly in Space.
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.
That rapid growth allowed the company to identify Salmonella genes responsible for infection, remove them, and create a weaker strain for a vaccine.
“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.
Astrogenetix has worked closely with NASA to fully utilize the International Space Station, one of NASA’s primary priorities. The Company has flown on six 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.
“We don’t fully understand why these bugs show increased virulence, “Porter says. “But when you see increased virulence it helps you to target potential therapeutic candidates at a particular disease.”