Why Carol Vorderman’s daughter is taking antibodies into space

View from the International Space Station

A UK-based start-up is developing technology to build a pharmaceuticals factory in space that will make antibody treatments more accessible and easier to administer.

BioOrbit is aiming to build the first pharmaceuticals factory in microgravity and are currently developing a platform for large-scale crystallisation of protein drugs.

As a result of ever-increasing demands on hospitals, there is a need to develop drugs that can be self-administered at home. Crystallisation of protein drugs enables the switch from intravenous (IV) to subcutaneous (SC) administration.

Crystallisation in a microgravity environment has been shown to result in more perfect crystals with a smaller size distribution, which makes them better for use in making pharmaceuticals.

This was discovered during the Space Shuttle and Mir programmes and the International Space Station has continued to serve as a platform for growing crystals for research purposes since then. Drug companies and academic researchers have conducted more than 500 protein crystal growth (PCG) experiments.

BioOrbit was founded by Dr Leonor Teles and Katie King, daughter of British broadcaster and media personality Carol Vorderman.

It is based at the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre United Kingdom (ESA BIC UK), part of the world’s largest business incubation programmes for space tech start-ups.

Katie King, CEO of BioOrbit, said: “By taking antibodies into space and crystallising them there, where there is a superior crystallisation process, we can then bring that drug back down to earth and patients can treat themselves from the comfort of their own homes. Through the ESA BIC UK, our sights are now set on building our payload and sending it in to space to see what data comes back. Long term, our vision is to establish a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in space within the next decade, enabling patients to access treatment conveniently at home.”

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