The Next Generation of Cancer Drugs Will Be Developed on Site

During the course, Mr. King was part of a team tasked with identifying research that could be done in space and that would have a significant impact on humanity. His team came up with the idea of ​​crystallizing drugs in microgravity. There was data stored on the International Space Station that showed the potential to “revolutionize cancer treatment,” King says. “This needs to be fully implemented, and now is the time.”

BioOrbit, which King founded in 2023, plans to develop and commercialize this type of medicine locally. After receiving funding from the European Space Agency, the plan is to test the method on the International Space Station at the beginning of next year to confirm that it works. And later in 2025, they are planning a second trip that will be with a pharmaceutical partner.

King is not the first to send medicine into space to reap the benefits of microgravity. Big Pharma is dipping its toe in again: Companies are included Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck they have been doing research in space for many years in the development and production of drugs. “What makes BioOrbit unique is that they are trying to scale it up,” says Li Shean Toh, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham who studies astronomy. King wants to blow it up to the commercial level.

But there are roadblocks. There are long lines to get a spot on a rocket to get supplies to the ISS, and it’s incredibly expensive. Control is another hurdle: Will Earth’s laws and regulations work in space? If one of BioOrbit’s products harms a patient, whose power will it take? “A lot of people are thinking about technology, but people are kind of looking at how we can prove it,” says Toh. Here’s what he’s researching: He’s proposed the Outer Space Treaty, a policy that underpins international law.

King is excited about his team’s work as a badger on how to make it all work, because he wants it to work. “There are so many benefits that the power of gravity can bring to life science research, drug development, cancer research—and so much more that we don’t know yet,” says King.

BioOrbit’s main goal is to have a sustainable environment in the fields of science, research, and manufacturing. Pharmaceutical factories housed in gray, sterile business facilities can be a bit foreign. One day, most of your medicine will probably be gone for a while.

This article appears in the May/June 2024 issue of WIRED UK Magazine.

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