Dec 6, 2022 - Business

A Boston lab experiment in space

Illustration of a hundred dollar bill with Ben Franklin wearing an astronaut helmet.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

An early-stage Boston biotech company is preparing to send a lab experiment to space in hopes of improving treatment for osteoarthritis and other diseases.

What's happening: Eascra Biotech, working with the University of Connecticut and Houston-based space infrastructure developer Axiom Space, plans to observe astronauts at the International Space Station as they develop the company's nanomaterials.

  • NASA gave the team, led by co-founder Yupeng Chen, $1.8 million to see if developing their Janus base nanomaterials (JBNs) in space could make batches more consistent in size and shape, says co-founder Mari Anne Snow.
  • JBNs are mini synthetic particles that mimic DNA and deliver vaccines or other life-saving treatments to the human body. Sometimes Eascra's JBNs come out thicker or smaller than planned, which their team thinks could be due to Earth's gravitational pull.

Why it matters: Space is the newest frontier for medical and technological breakthroughs, and this Boston company joins other life sciences researchers who are using the zero-gravity environment to test their work.

  • Eascra's experiment comes as industry leaders and regulators are still trying to figure out how nanotechnology could (or should) be used in health care. The FDA just released guidance last month on drug products with nanomaterials.

Of note: Eascra's partner, Axiom Space, is working on a movie studio module at the ISS for the producers behind Tom Cruise's space movie.

Details: Eascra plans to make its first trip to the ISS in May, joining Axiom Space.

  • Eascra will offer astronauts written directions on how to develop the JBNs and consult them during the experiments using an over-the-shoulder camera, Snow says

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