The next generation of cancer drugs could be produced in space. This can potentially be done by BioOrbit, a company founded in 2023 by Katie King, a PhD candidate in nanomedicine at the University of Cambridge, writes WIRED.

This approach can solve one of the problems associated with immunotherapy. This is one of the most promising ways to fight cancer. Its principle of operation is to trigger the body’s immune defense, screening out and attacking cancer cells.

The difficulty lies in the fact that such drugs are usually administered intravenously – patients spend hours in the hospital while undergoing this procedure.

Of course, it would be much easier if medications could be injected at home. But in this case, the concentration would have to be much higher, which would result in a thick mixture that would be too viscous for injection.

The answer is that if you crystallize the proteins in the preparation instead, you can get a high concentration in a smaller volume, and the solution will not be as viscous.

But in this case, another problem arises: it is almost impossible to do all this on Earth. If you try, the resulting crystals will be imperfect. But in space, without the “interference” of gravity, the crystallized proteins can be perfect.

BioOrbit can deal with all this. The company’s founder, Katie King, has always been fascinated by space and is convinced that it “should be used to help people on Earth.”

In 2022, she took part in a program run by an international organization in France that provides postgraduate training for those seeking a career in the space industry.

Then she became part of a team that had to identify research that could be conducted in space and would potentially have the best impact on humanity. Her team settled on the concept of crystallizing drugs in microgravity.

According to her, the International Space Station had accumulated data that hinted that this could “absolutely revolutionize cancer treatment.” Katie King is convinced that this needs to be fully realized, and now is the time to do it.

BioOrbit plans to scale up and commercialize this type of drug manufacturing in space. After receiving funding from the European Space Agency, the plan is to test the process on the International Space Station early next year to make sure it works. Another flight is planned for 2025, ideally with a pharmaceutical partner.

Despite the obstacles in realizing these intentions, BioOrbit has ambitious plans. The company’s ultimate goal is to create a permanent facility in space for scientific, research, and production work.