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Deep Space Pharma
October 7, 2007 11:38 PM   Subscribe

Growing drugs in space. If the rainforest runs out of undiscovered medicines, just grow new drugs in space: Wired reports that "a swaggering Texas investor" wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting drug lab: "If people knew what I already know," he says, "the International Space Station would be considered one of the most valuable resources our world possesses." Think of it as New Jack City in zero-G – full of weird, crystallized proteins (and billion dollar cures).
posted by BLDGBLOG (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
My God, it's full of stars!
posted by Poolio at 11:40 PM on October 7, 2007


Labs down here are making large strides in protein purification and protein imaging at ever higher resolutions. Without being able to cheaply get raw materials and people up to the ISS, and, accordingly, value-added products (and people) back down to earth, this doesn't seem like a wise investment.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:45 PM on October 7, 2007


This is still a terrible waste of money, like all manned space flight.
"Up in space, the crystals grow bigger and better," said Tim Osslund, who specializes in protein formulation at Amgen.
Considering Amgen's just laid off 15% of its workforce, mostly in R&D (part of the continuing inability of the industry to discover any new drugs), I don't think they'll be underwriting the ISS anytime soon.

Want giant protein crystals grown in microgravity? Just put them in a superconducting magnet.
By adjusting the magnetic field produced by a 33-tesla magnet, the researchers were able to counteract the force of gravity, stilling the convection currents around the growing crystal. They were even able to create a sort of negative gravity and make the growth plume travel downwards.

"The authors of the paper have a technique that can produce the same effects of microgravity on crystal growth in a much more controlled manner than could ever be achieved on the the International Space Station," says Edward Snell, a structural biologist at the State University of New York in Buffalo, US.
posted by Bletch at 12:11 AM on October 8, 2007


You put your weed out there.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:12 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


You put your weed out there.

I've got a Sea of Green growing in the Sea of Tranquility. Trichomes as big as basketballs, dude.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:29 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


It took me a minute or two to get past the absurdity of the headline.
posted by blacklite at 12:32 AM on October 8, 2007


"Ground control to Major Tom..."
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:55 AM on October 8, 2007


33T? That is a BIG magnet!
posted by tss at 1:18 AM on October 8, 2007


The problem isn't in finding new drugs, it's in getting through increasingly unlikely-to-pass test cycles. This is not an accident, or a reflection that drugs are less likely to work. No, it's a cost control mechanism, and a very brute force one at that.

You may think this ridiculous -- but it's the only price pressure available in our broken system.
posted by effugas at 2:00 AM on October 8, 2007


They quote $800M to get a drug though phase 3 (4), but screening is only a tiny fraction of that. The bioactivity and trials are the expensive part. Also, knowing the structure isn't a magic wand to finding a compound that interacts correctly with a molecule; there's already a huge library of known-structure molecules with no effective drugs to target them.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:20 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


if NASA expects private research to fund the ISS, well, i think the ISS is sadly in big trouble.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 5:31 AM on October 8, 2007


This is going to be the final scene in Johnny Mnemonic II: Keanu on an aging ISS looking for a cure for AIDS+ just after screaming about wanting a club sandwich, Ice looking grungier than ever, and he runs into the tin-plated dolphin again, who bleats and squeals about how it's so much nicer when you don't have to have stress-reinforced tanks to hold all of his water because he's in free-fall.
posted by adipocere at 6:06 AM on October 8, 2007


Where's High Times to sponsor the M-Prize?
posted by drezdn at 6:47 AM on October 8, 2007


This is going to be the final scene in Johnny Mnemonic II: Keanu on an aging ISS looking for a cure for AIDS+ just after screaming about wanting a club sandwich, Ice looking grungier than ever, and he runs into the tin-plated dolphin again, who bleats and squeals about how it's so much nicer when you don't have to have stress-reinforced tanks to hold all of his water because he's in free-fall.

Actually, there's a lot of near-space activity going on in Gibson's sprawl series.
posted by delmoi at 7:28 AM on October 8, 2007


Cheech and Chong were so ahead of their time.
posted by cog_nate at 7:32 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


in space nobody can here you snort
posted by baker dave at 9:19 AM on October 8, 2007


Jesus. In retrospect, Cheech and Chong were like Harold and Kumar with absolutely no boundaries of imagination.
posted by phaedon at 10:19 AM on October 8, 2007


This is going to be the final scene in Johnny Mnemonic II: Keanu on an aging ISS looking for a cure for AIDS+

... and the fine print it will say that it's an adaptation of "Red Star, Winter Orbit".

Well, why not? The idea's about as close as Johnny Mnemonic was to "Johnny Mnemonic".
posted by lodurr at 10:20 AM on October 8, 2007


I wouldn't put too much stock in this company's ideas. The CEO profiled in the Wired article is a turnaround specialist - a suit that joins a penny stock company, fires a few employees, raises the company profile with a wild idea/claim to boost the stock price, and then exits with a briefcase of cash. His experience is in the energy sector. His involvement with this firm probably has more to do with his past success in propping up flagging stock value than knowledge about pharma or space industry.
posted by junesix at 11:30 AM on October 8, 2007


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