Boeing, ISS National Lab Partner to Award $500,000 for Microgravity Research through MassChallenge

BOSTON, October 18, 2018 (CASIS PR) – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and Boeing [NYSE: BA] have partnered for the fifth consecutive year to grant up to $500,000 collectively toward innovative startup research through the MassChallenge (Boston) startup accelerator.

With the latest awards, as part of the MassChallenge “Technology in Space” competition, three new flight projects will have the opportunity to leverage the microgravity environment aboard the ISS National Laboratory to enhance their products and business models on Earth.

In total, Boeing and the ISS National Lab have allocated more than $2.5 million in funding to 14 companies during the last 5 years. Many of these past awardees have already launched investigations to the ISS National Lab, including a recent cancer therapy research experiment from Angiex, based in Cambridge (MA).

Boeing is the ISS prime contractor, responsible for designing, building, and processing the American modules and the integrated truss system that powers the station, for sustaining engineering, and for processing experiment and systems racks for launch, installation, and operation. The ISS National Lab is responsible for opening new channels for research initiatives that have the capacity to benefit life on Earth.

The grants will provide seed funding for the three awarded companies and assist with hardware costs for flight to the ISS National Lab. Each year’s winning projects +-incorporate science or technology initiatives that seek to effectively use and benefit from ISS National Lab capabilities.

Below are the 2018 recipients of the “Technology in Space” award:

Kernal Biologics, Inc. (Cambridge, MA)
Leveraging microgravity to screen oncoselective messenger RNAs for cancer immunotherapy

Kernal Biologics, Inc. is a startup developing immunotherapies that use messenger RNA (mRNA, a naturally occurring biological molecule) in the treatment of leukemia. These mRNA-based drugs may be capable of not only killing cancer cells but also differentiating between cancer cells and healthy cells (termed “oncoselective”). Since the amount and types of mRNA and protein produced within spaceflight cells can be different from ground-based studies, the team plans to test candidate mRNA molecules in healthy human cells and leukemia cell lines to better identify which molecules are the most oncoselective even in the stress environment of microgravity.

MicroQuin (San Francisco, CA)
Investigation of key signaling cascades involved in tumorigenesis and their responsiveness to a new therapeutic using a 3D in vitro, tumor model

The goal of this study is to develop and study complex 3D models of human breast and prostate tumors (and their healthy tissue counterparts) using cell lines. Understanding tumor shape, growth, behavior, cell communication, and drug susceptibility will benefit from good 3D models, which better represent true biological function. Spaceflight studies aid in the development of such 3D models because of physical changes within cell cultures including reduced fluid movement and functional lack of gravity.

MicroQuin (San Francisco, CA)
Crystallization of an oncologically important protein to promote therapeutic discovery

Proteins are studied by analyzing the structure of their crystalline form, and spaceflight has shown positive effects on crystal quality of some proteins. This project aims to crystallize a protein that is biologically important in tumor formation and cancer survival. The protein is highly complex to purify and crystallize on Earth, and better understanding its structure might reveal new ways to therapeutically combat cancer through structure-based drug design.

Final award of any grant money is contingent upon acceptance of legal terms and conditions between recipient, managers of the ISS National Lab, and Boeing. To learn more about the MassChallenge Accelerator program, visit: http://masschallenge.org/accelerator.

About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the ISS as the nation’s newest national laboratory to maximize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. This unique laboratory environment is now available for use by non-NASA U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector, providing these customers access to a permanent microgravity setting, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied environments of space. The ISS National Lab is managed by the Center for the Advancement for Science in Space, under agreement with NASA.

About Boeing’s Role in Human Space Exploration: Boeing’s work as NASA’s prime contractor for the International Space Station program maintains the station’s role as an orbiting laboratory capable of producing cutting-edge research across numerous scientific disciplines. Boeing will begin flying astronauts to the station next year aboard the CST-100 Starliner, a spacecraft developed by Boeing in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program that will give America its first human-rated space transportation vehicle since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011. Boeing also is building the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System, a rocket powerful enough to lift astronauts and spacecraft to destinations beyond Earth orbit, such as lunar orbit and Mars. For more information on Boeing, visit www.boeing.com. Follow us on Twitter: @BoeingSpace.