Varda Space’s robot laboratory made an HIV drug while in Earth orbit

webnexttech | Varda Space’s robot laboratory made an HIV drug while in Earth orbit

“Them space drugs cooked real good,” said Delian Asparouhov in a post on the platform X. After many months in space, Varda Space Industries’ small automated laboratory came back to Earth in February with a special cargo — a form of HIV drug ritonavir, commonly used to treat HIV, that was manufactured in space. “Our analysis confirms that we have the same [manufacturing] control in space as we do on Earth,” Varda chief science officer Adrian Radocea told Forbes. The drug was created in space exactly as predicted and it remained stable on its return to Earth. This experiment proved that not only can Varda make a drug in space, but it can also deliver it safely back to Earth. Varda’s work has been documented in a pre-print paper available on the server ChemRxiv. “By providing a detailed experimental dataset centered on survivability, we pave the way for the future of in-space processing of medicines that enable the development of novel drug products on Earth and benefit long-duration human exploration initiatives,” wrote the researchers in the paper. Yes, the ability to synthesise and produce drugs in space will be especially useful in mankind’s distant future of deep space exploration. If humans were to go on long-term missions to Mars and maybe even beyond, it would be impractical to depend on Earth-based manufacturing facilities for crucial medicines, especially considering that a one-way trip to the red planet will take seven months. But it is not just space exploration that stands to benefit. There are other benefits to having the ability to produce drugs in space that will materialise long before any crewed mission to Mars or targets farther than the Moon. The process of crystallisation is important in the pharma industry and the way that it happens can have massive effects on how drugs work on patients. As you may have already guessed, the microgravity environment of space makes it much easier to go through some methods of crystallisation than on Earth. And these types of crystallisation could be used for creating certain desired properties. For example, in 2019, researchers made Merck’s cancer drug Keytruda on the International Space Station and found that it was possible to make stable crystal forms of the drug that could be delivered with an injection and stored at room temperature. That is a big thing because the version made on Earth needs refrigeration and can only be administered through IV.

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