SpacePharma mini-lab launched in Italy-Israel collaboration

Image of Space Pharma nano-satellite / Photo: ESA
Image of Space Pharma nano-satellite / Photo: ESA

The automated lab will carry out four chemistry and biology experiments under conditions of weightlessness.

This morning, from the Guiana Space Center, a European Space Agency spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana, the Israeli-Italian nano-satellite Dido III was launched atop a Vega rocket of Italian company Avio. On board the satellite is an automated, remote-controlled mini-laboratory for carrying out four medical experiments. The satellite launch is part of a joint project of the Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana), one of 53 miniature satellites in the same spacecraft.

The laboratory launched into space on the satellite was developed by Herzliya-based SpacePharma together with research institutes in Israel and Italy. The laboratory, the size of a carton of milk, carries within it four experiments to do with research into disease prevention. The chemical and biological experiments will be carried out under conditions of near absolute weightlessness, and are designed to provide information that cannot be obtained in the conditions of the earth's gravity. The experiments will investigate the efficacy of anti-bacterial materials, how bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics in weightless conditions, the protein albumin, and the phenomenon of DNA folding.

The experiments were planned by four teams of scientists from the two countries, with an Italian researcher and an Israeli researcher on each team. The participating Israeli institutes are the Technion, with two experiments, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Sheba Medical Center. The Italian institutes are the University of Bologna, the University of Rome, and University of Rome Tor Vergata

This is the fifth space mission of SpacePharma, which was founded by its CEO Yossi Yamin in 2013. The company has launched a nano-satellite in the past, as well as three laboratories installed on the International Space Station. In all, the company has carried out more than ten experiments under conditions of weightlessness in biology, chemistry, and drug development. Among the investors in Space Pharma is venture capital firm State of Mind Ventures, which was the first investor in the company.

The results of the experiments, which should be available in the coming weeks, will be transmitted to SpacePharma's ground station in Switzerland and from there to researchers in Israel. The nano-satellite will pass over the ground station six times and transmit data to earth. On the basis of the analysis of the data, commands will be transmitted to continue the experiments in space, interactively and in real time. Simultaneously, the researchers will carry out the experiments using an identical system on the ground. The differences between the experiments in different conditions will yield unique information that could lead to scientific breakthroughs.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on September 3, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Image of Space Pharma nano-satellite / Photo: ESA
Image of Space Pharma nano-satellite / Photo: ESA
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