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International Space Station
The International Space Station serves as an orbiting laboratory. (NASA photo)

The Boeing Co. and a nonprofit group called the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, have teamed up for the fourth year in a row to provide financial support for orbital entrepreneurship through the MassChallenge startup accelerator program.

This year’s three winning projects will split $500,000 in grants for experiments designed to be done aboard the International Space Station in microgravity, popularly known as zero gravity.

  • Cellino Biotech aims to use its NanoLaze gene-editing platform on induced pluripotent stem cells on Earth, and then see how they proliferate in the space station’s zero-G environment. Cellino says the technique could generate hundreds of millions of stem cells for cell-based therapy.
  • Guardion Technologies plans to synthesize two-dimensional nanomaterials on the space station, for use in its miniaturized radiation detectors. Guardion says convection-free production in zero-G could produce higher-quality samples for the detectors, which check for potential radiological threats.
  • MakerHealth wants to use the station’s zero-G environment as a testing ground for its AmpliRx biochemical manufacturing platform. Experiments in microgravity should help the MIT spinoff optimize the material properties and geometries for the membranes used in its devices.

Final award of any grant money is contingent on acceptance of legal terms and conditions involving CASIS, Boeing and the grant recipients.

CASIS is the organization in charge of managing the space station’s U.S. research program in its function as a national laboratory.

Eleven startups in all have benefited from the “Technology in Space” prizes awarded since 2014 at MassChallenge Boston, with backing from CASIS and Boeing. The two startups selected for awards in 2015, Biorasis and LaunchPad Medical, should see their experiments fly to the space station next month aboard SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule.

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