We’ve collected extraordinary data over the last several missions to the International Space Station, and we expect more critical data to come back with the Shuttle’s return
Austin, TX (Vocus) April 7, 2010
Astronauts on board Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-131) activated an experiment this morning as part of the ninth scientific payload for Astrogenetix, an Austin, Texas-based commercial biotech company. Astrogenetix is conducting the International Space Station National Laboratory Pathfinder Vaccine (NLP-V) missions to take advantage of the unique conditions of microgravity to uncover changes in bacteria that can be targeted to create new vaccines and therapeutics.
“Through this series of experiments, we are demonstrating that the International Space Station can be utilized as a platform for novel drug discovery,” said John Porter, Chief Executive Officer of Astrogenetix. “We sincerely believe the use of microgravity will yield tremendous benefits for new discovery to save lives on Earth.”
Astrogenetix has identified target genes for MRSA (a form of Staph infection) virulence by growing the bacteria in the microgravity environment during previous NLP-V missions. The Company is further examining and validating these genes on STS-131, by sending up several different strains of the bacteria, which were genetically altered to remove target genes that are believed to be associated with virulence of this organism.
MRSA is a type of bacteria that is not responsive to commonly used antibiotics and typically causes skin infections, but can also cause other infections – including pneumonia. In the past decade, infection and mortality due to this organism has increased drastically, exceeding the death rate for HIV. In the United States, MRSA is responsible for 100,000 cases of severe infections and more than 19,000 deaths annually.
“We’ve collected extraordinary data over the last several missions to the International Space Station, and we expect more critical data to come back with the Shuttle’s return,” added Dr. Jeanne Becker, Chief Science Officer for Astrogenetix. “We’re getting much closer to identifying a potential target for vaccine development by knocking out specific genes associated with virulence.”
Initial NLP-V studies conducted by Astrogenetix focused on developing a potential vaccine for Salmonella bacteria. Currently there is no vaccine for Salmonella, which represents a significant problem for food contamination in the U.S. and for American soldiers in foreign countries, in addition to causing illness and death in developing nations. Work conducted during the first three NLP-V spaceflight payloads resulted in the successful identification of key genes in Salmonella that could be manipulated to create a potential vaccine for this organism. The Company is developing an investigational new drug submission package for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for subsequent initiation of trials for the Salmonella vaccine.
About Astrogenetix, Incorporated
A subsidiary of Astrotech Corporation (Nasdaq: ASTC), Astrogenetix is a biotechnology company formed to commercialize biotechnology products processed in the unique environment of microgravity. The Company offers a turn-key platform for pre-flight sample preparation, flight hardware, mission planning and operations, crew training and certification processes needed within the highly regulated and complex environment of manned space flight.
The statements in this document may contain forward-looking statements that are made pursuant to the Safe Harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward-looking statements are subject to risks, trends, and uncertainties that could cause actual results to be materially different from the forward-looking statement. These factors include, but are not limited to, continued government support and funding for key space programs, product performance and market acceptance of products and services, as well as other risk factors and business considerations described in the company's Securities & Exchange Commission filings including the annual report on Form 10-K. Any forward-looking statements in this document should be evaluated in light of these important risk factors. The Company assumes no obligation to update these forward-looking statements.