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SpacePharma SA Conducts First Successful Parabolic Research Flight

Press Release From: SpacePharma SA
Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2016

Officials with SpacePharma SA, a world leader in providing simplified, high-value microgravity services, today announced the company recently completed its first commercial parabolic research flight, conducting research experiments for customers in microgravity. The successful flight represents the company’s debut of its newest platform that offers researchers affordable access to microgravity to advance their projects.

“The disruptive, unique environment of microgravity provides benefits in various research fields such as macromolecular crystallization and 3D cell culture used for cancer research and drug discovery,” said Yossi Yamin, founder of SpacePharma SA. “Parabolic flights are an important means of providing the research community with affordable access to that type of environment on a regular basis. It is our goal to use these flights and our other platforms to help researchers make advancements in new drugs, food design, agricultural chemistry and more.”

The flight was operated as part of the Platform for Scientific Research in Zero Gravity under the direction of Professor Oliver Ullrich with the University of Zurich, which is backed by the Swiss Space Office of the Swiss government. The Airbus A-310 took off from Swiss Army Militärflugplatz Dübendorf Air Base near Zurich, Switzerland on October 22, 2016. It was made possible by the close collaboration between Novespace, a subsidiary of the French Space agency CENS, and the Swiss Air. With two SpacePharma representatives on board, along with a number of research scientists, 16 micro-G parabolas were performed during the flight enabling SpacePharma to conduct the following experiments for their customers: 

  • Two enzyme reaction experiments – Enzymes catalyze chemical reactions used in many industrial applications. This experiment studied the effect of microgravity on the kinetic properties of enzymatic reactions. The results will hopefully uncover new enzymatic properties that might potentially expand industrial applications. The pharma experiment was done in collaboration with Professor Rainer Fischer from Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology and Dr. Raluca Ostafe from Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen University.
  • A bacteria gene expression experiment – Bacterial virulence increases under microgravity conditions. This experiment enabled the study of the virulence process, which will help test the effectiveness of new drugs and antibiotics.
  • A peptide self-assembly experiment – This experiment, done in collaboration with Professor Ehud Gazit with Tel Aviv University, explored novel properties of small organic, self-assembling molecules under micro-gravitation crystallization.

After being activated by the attending scientists, all of the experiments were conducted in automation mode using SpacePharma’s miniaturized, end-to-end laboratory, mGnify, which can perform advanced biological and chemical experiments, provide novel data and accelerate R&D pipelines. Measuring 20 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, mGnify features different types of laboratories: bio-chemistry, drug screening, gene-expression, protein crystallization and migration. A single mGnify lab contained and facilitated all four experiments on board this flight. Attending scientists were able to observe real-time results and troubleshoot, if necessary. Scientific analysis of experiment results will be announced in a few weeks.

“mGnify is designed to be remotely controlled from anywhere from Earth using a web application, so scientists can oversee their experiments from the comfort of their office or laboratory,” Yossi said. “For this flight, the plane was not equipped with outside connectivity, so the mini labs were controlled from inside the plane. Upon activation, the mGnify lab took over and successfully executed the assigned tasks for all 4 experiments. For future parabolic flights, we will have ground connectivity and scientists will not necessarily be required to be on board.”

SpacePharma aims to conduct additional parabolic flights as required by customers. In addition to the parabolic flight platform, the company uses ground simulators to create microgravity conditions. Also, in winter 2017, it will launch a nanosatellite, representing its third platform for accessing space and microgravity environments. Yossi Yamin will share details of this first parabolic flight and much more during an upcoming appearance at SpaceCom 2016.

About SpacePharma SA

SpacePharma SA is a world leader in providing simplified, high-value, end-to-end microgravity services and solutions for research. Headquartered in Switzerland, the company’s diverse team of professionals also operate an R&D division in Israel and its U.S. subsidiary based in Palo Alto, Calif. For more information, visit www.space4p.com.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Melissa Wren
Griffin Communications Group
(281) 335-0200; melissa@griffincg.com

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