AUSTIN, Texas, May 26, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Space Shuttle Atlantis returned from the International Space Station (ISS) landing at the Kennedy Space Center this morning with the tenth scientific payload for Astrogenetix, a commercial biotech company based out of Austin, Texas. Astrogenetix is conducting research on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as part of the ISS National Laboratory Pathfinder Vaccine (NLP-V) missions.
"By removing a force as fundamental as gravity in the course of this research, we're witnessing bacteria grow in ways that have not been demonstrated on Earth," said John Porter, Chief Executive Officer of Astrogenetix. "The use of microgravity as a new research platform will bring meaningful advancements in drug discovery and development, and we believe this early vaccine work is just the beginning."
The Company is utilizing the unique conditions of microgravity to uncover changes in bacteria, which can be targeted to create new vaccines and therapeutics. Astrogenetix has identified target genes for MRSA virulence by growing the bacteria in the microgravity environment during previous NLP-V. The Company is conducting controls on this flight to validate prior research 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. Additionally, the Company is bringing back live forms of the bacteria that were grown in microgravity to compare to ground-based samples of the bacteria. The science team will perform post-flight analysis on the microbes to evaluate the changes that occurred on this mission."Each flight opportunity allows us to learn more about the bacteria and the changes that are occurring as they grow in space," added Dr. Jeanne Becker, Chief Science Officer for Astrogenetix. "The knowledge we're gaining can be applied to streamline and accelerate the development of vaccines and therapeutics on Earth."