Press Release

NASA, Synthecon Agree on Protein Pharmaceutical License

By SpaceRef Editor
July 12, 2001
Filed under ,

NASA has granted biotechnology company Synthecon, Inc. an exclusive
pharmaceutical license to produce recombinant human protein drugs in its
proprietary Rotary Cell Culture System TM (RCCSTM).

Synthecon is using the RCCSTM technology to develop a recombinant
protein drug to treat autoimmune system diseases such as rheumatoid
arthritis and lupus. The Synthecon/NASA Rotary Cell Culture System TM
technology is expected to increase the efficiency of producing such
drugs by at least ten times.

The RCCSTM technology is based on a 1986 NASA invention, known as the
bioreactor. The bioreactor is a cell culturing apparatus, having a
rotating cylinder developed at Johnson Space Center during research to
simulate the way cell cultures grow in weightlessness. Unlike cultures
grown in petri dishes on Earth, in weightlessness the cells have no
pressure points that can disrupt the culture. To simulate this, the
rotating bioreactor was developed. Its rotation and shape reduce
pressure points to stimulate the effect of weightlessness, producing
high-density cell cultures that would not otherwise grow outside the

Synthecon holds an exclusive NASA license to manufacture the RCCSTM
equipment, with two more patents pending. Synthecon, Inc. is the
manufacturers of 3-dimensional tissue culture systems using licensed
NASA bioreactor technology developed for the space program.

“The Human Genome Project mapped all of the human genes,” said Andy
Anderson, Syntheconís president. “Proteomics is an emerging discipline
that uses that data to identify and produce human proteins, and the
RCCSTM already is a proven tool in these proteomic developments.”

Anderson continued, “If the Genome Project is the diamond mine and the
proteomics proteins are the diamonds, then the Rotary Cell Culture
System TM is the pick and shovel for getting them out. This new NASA
license allows Synthecon to mine some of the diamonds and grant
sublicenses to others to use the RCCSTM technology to mine their own
proteomics diamonds.”

JSC has an active program to transfer technology designed for space into
products to improve life on earth. Space technology in propulsion;
structures; energy generation, storage, and transmission; human factors
engineering; aerospace medicine; sensors; communications; computers; and
materials are transferred from the government to the private sector,
often in cooperative development projects with companies such as

For additional information, see Syntheconís website at: or visit NASAís Technology Transfer website at:

SpaceRef staff editor.