A commercial experiment just started on the International Space Station is
sponsored by one of NASA’s 17 Commercial Space Centers, BioServe Space
Technologies at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Bristol-Myers
Squibb Company, based in New York.

BioServe built the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus, which the
Space Station Expedition Two crew activated on the Space Station last week.
Now, the experiment is collecting data on the effects of microgravity — the
near weightless environment inside an orbiting spacecraft — on bacterial
growth processes used to produce actinomycin D. This class of antibiotics is
used to treat certain types of cancer.

“We’re excited to be conducting one of the first commercial pharmaceutical
experiments aboard the International Space Station,” said Dr. David M.
Klaus, associate director of research at BioServe.

The bioprocessing apparatus will remain on board the Station until the end
of Expedition Two, at the end of July, when Space Shuttle Discovery returns
it to investigators on Earth for analysis.

While the experiment is on the Station, BioServe scientists are monitoring
it from a remote ground control site at the University of Colorado. This
week, BioServe scientists became the first researchers to send a command
from a remote site to an experiment on the Space Station through NASA’s
Payload Operations Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,
Ala. Researchers at the BioServe site confirmed that they received the
proper response from the experiment after sending the command. BioServe is
outfitting a new remote control center that will be open in the fall to
support upcoming Station experiments.

Commercial Space Centers, like BioServe, have specialized areas of technical
expertise and are located across the United States. Eleven are managed by
NASA’s Space Product Development Program at the Marshall Center and are
jointly funded by NASA, industry and academia.

Working together, BioServe and Bristol-Myers Squibb have flown previous
experiments aboard three Space Shuttle flights. These initial results
indicated that space flight has a stimulating effect on microbial antibiotic
production, with increases in specific productivity of up to about 200
percent compared to ground control samples.

“Our collaboration with NASA not only puts our researchers in the forefront
of science, but also gives us the opportunity of being first in our field to
develop major new technologies and products,” said Ray Lam, senior principal
scientist of the natural products department at Bristol-Myers Squibb’s
research facility in Wallingford, Conn. – part of the company’s
Pharmaceutical Research Institute.

Based on these successful, preliminary results, the company recently funded
a research program on the International Space Station. Space Station flights
are much longer than Shuttle flights, allowing the company to determine if
these stimulating effects continue over time as the exposure to space is
increased from under two weeks to more than two months. Information gained
from the space research could be used to enhance research that increases the
efficiency of drug production in ground-based facilities.

“This project is built upon findings from the three previous Space Shuttle
experiments and many years of ground-based laboratory studies,” said Klaus.

“BioServe has improved the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus’
capabilities tremendously, allowing it to produce flight sample that are
more similar to those produced in Earth’s laboratories. We are looking
forward to getting the antibiotic compounds back in July for analysis.”

The BioServe experiment and two other commercial experiments from Wisconsin
and Alabama are among the first U.S. commercial experiments delivered to the
Space Station by Space Shuttle Endeavour on the STS-100 mission, launched
April 19. The Wisconsin experiment will grow the first plants aboard the
Station. The Alabama experiment will crystallize more than 1,000 biological

“Industry investment in space is at an all time high,” said Mark Nall,
manager of NASA’s Space Product Development Program at Marshall. “We assist
companies developing experiments and help them explore how space research
can contribute to the growth of their business.”

Industry funds the research, pays for a portion of launch costs, and brings
resulting products or services to market. Because a company pays for the
research, it has the opportunity to commercialize products that may be
developed as a result of the space experiments.

Most of the Commercial Space Centers are located on university campuses and
work closely with other academic and government research institutions. The
centers have agreements with almost 200 firms, including Bristol-Myers
Squibb, ALCOA, Amgen, DuPont, Eli Lily and Company, Space Explorers Inc.,
Monsanto Company and Polaroid.

NASA has scheduled more commercial experiments for upcoming Space Station
expeditions. This fall, BioServe will fly an experiment in collaboration
with Amgen, a biotech company based in Thousand Oaks, Calf. The experiment
will examine the effects of a naturally occurring compound, Osteoprotegerin,
on the high rate of bone loss observed in microgravity. Amgen scientists
discovered Osteprotegerin and want to investigate its uses as a new
treatment for osteoporosis.

Another NASA Commercial Space Center in Colorado — the Center for
Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space (CCACS) at the Colorado
School of Mines in Golden — is involved in future Space Station materials
experiments with GuignÈ International – located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Guignè is building a payload to be flown aboard the Space Station. Called
Space-DRUMS‘, the experiment processes materials inside a refrigerator-sized
facility that uses sound waves to hold the material in place.

“The object being heated doesn’t touch the container’s walls,” said Jacques
Guignè, president of Guignè. “Containers draw off the heat and change the
material’s structure. Inside the Space Station, the low-gravity lets us
suspend the material so it doesn’t touch the container walls.”

Guignè and the company’s partner Commercial Space Center are interested in
creating more durable glass ceramic materials for items such as electronics,
insulation for jet engines, fiber optic lines, dental crowns, and furnaces.