Manufacturing Pharmaceuticals In Space

Varda Space Industries, a California-based startup, is venturing into the realm of pharmaceutical manufacturing in microgravity with the goal of revolutionising drug development. By leveraging the unique environment of space, Varda aims to produce better and more effective medications that could potentially transform the pharmaceutical industry and generate significant profits. With the successful launch of its first test mission, Varda is paving the way for humanity to expand its pharma manufacturing capabilities beyond Earth.

Harnessing Microgravity for Pharmaceutical Development

The concept of manufacturing pharmaceuticals in microgravity builds upon experiments conducted on the International Space Station (ISS), where private companies and research institutions have collaborated with astronauts. Companies like Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb have already sent experiments to the ISS National Laboratory, exploring the potential for developing drugs that could have tangible benefits for people on Earth.

Varda Space Industries is taking this concept a step further by utilising satellites to carry out pharmaceutical development in Earth’s orbit. Their spacecraft will serve as a manufacturing platform, enabling the production of drugs in microgravity. By defying the constraints of gravity, Varda seeks to revolutionise the production process and unlock new possibilities for drug formulation.

Microgravity Formulation Development

Varda collaborates with renowned contract research organizations to develop unique formulations through microgravity formulation development. Initially, the focus is on formulating small molecule products, with future platforms designed to accommodate biologics as well. Their in-space technology expands the envelope of accessible forms, processes, and particle morphologies, presenting an exciting avenue for pharmaceutical advancements.

By mitigating influences like natural convection and sedimentation, the microgravity environment offers an unparalleled avenue for formulating small molecules and biologics, addressing limitations that conventional manufacturing processes cannot overcome. This distinctive environment facilitates the creation of particles with customizable sizes, enhanced crystal organization, and novel structures, thereby potentially yielding benefits such as improved bioavailability, extended product stability, the generation of new intellectual property, and the exploration of alternative routes of administration.

The company’s early missions involve returning quantities of materials for preclinical studies. Subsequent missions will scale up production to cost-effectively supply space-made materials, thereby maintaining the drug supply chain.

First Test Mission and Milestone Achievement

On June 13, 2023, Varda launched its first test mission aboard a SpaceX rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The satellite successfully separated from the rocket, marking a major milestone in Varda’s journey towards manufacturing drugs in space for use on Earth.

The capsule onboard the rocket, purpose-built by Varda, aims to carry out drug research in microgravity. Varda’s vision is to harness the unique environment of space to create pharmaceutical products that benefit from reduced gravity-induced defects and enhanced crystal formation.

Varda Space Industries Tweeted

Operating in Orbit: Varda’s Space Factory

Varda’s space factory, the first of its kind, is now operational in orbit after launching aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from California. The spacecraft, developed by Rocket Lab, provides power, communications, propulsion, and attitude control to Varda’s 264-pound (120-kilogram) capsule, according to a press release. This capsule is designed to manufacture pharmaceutical products in microgravity and return them to Earth in a re-entry capsule.

By capitalizing on the increased access to space in recent years, Varda aims to launch its capsules into orbit, enabling the production of medications that can benefit from the microgravity environment. The initial capsule will spend approximately three months in orbit, producing pharmaceutical drugs and sending around 90-130 pounds (40-60 kilograms) of finished products back to Earth.

A Promising Future

Founded in 2020, Varda quickly gained recognition and has raised over $42 million in funding from investors including Khosla Ventures, Lux Capital, Founders Fund, Caffeinated Capital, General Catalyst, and Also Capital. With its sights set on creating superior products for Earth using the advantages of space, the company ordered four Photon spacecraft from Rocket Lab to support its in-space pharmaceutical manufacturing capsules. The second spacecraft is currently undergoing assembly, integration, and testing.

Varda Space Industries is at the forefront of the burgeoning field of pharmaceutical manufacturing in microgravity. By leveraging the unique environment of space, Varda aims to develop better and more effective drugs that could transform the pharmaceutical landscape.

Recommended Companies

    • BLOCK Isolator Technology Logo 768x576

    BLOCK Technology

    • LBB BOHLE 768x576

    L.B. Bohle

    • MIRAI INTEX 768x576


More Headlines