Baylor College of Medicine


TRISH selects projects to advance the readiness of medication production in deep space

Aaron Nieto


Houston, TX1 -

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine announced today two selected projects to analyze advanced engineering and synthetic biology solutions that can be used in long-duration, deep space human missions.

Future deep space missions will require large amounts of food, medication and other consumables to support years-long human journeys. Given the distance from Earth and the inability to resupply, deep space missions will need to carry the full volume of consumables for the duration of the mission in their spacecraft or have the capability to produce them along the way. The selected projects from TRISH’s recent funding opportunity, Figures of Merit: How to get Biology Engineered for Exploration of Space, will quantify the resources needed to implement engineering biology solutions that could support spaceflight crew health and performance.      

“Advancing our capability to produce food, medication and other consumables during a mission without requiring consistent resupply from Earth is essential to enable future long-duration missions to Mars and beyond,” said Dr. Rihana Bokhari, TRISH acting chief scientific officer and assistant professor with the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor. “Many innovations in the production of food, medicine and nutrition have been developed over the years. To implement these engineering and synthetic biology solutions during space travel, we need to understand what it will cost to do so with limited resources of mass, power, volume and time.” 

Scientists have developed biologically engineered solutions including enhanced plants, supplemental nutrients and even on-demand pharmaceuticals to address spaceflight risks and constraints. Additionally, bio-engineered solutions could contribute to life support systems by using plants and microbes to clean the air and recycle waste products. While these approaches might work on Earth, resources are significantly limited in space. Each potential solution has its own requirements – mass, power, volume and crew member/production time – that must be weighed against the other systems and consumables in the space vehicle. Understanding these “figures of merit” (FOMs) enables mission planners to make strategic decisions and prioritize appropriate bio-engineered solutions to implement for future space travel.  

Analysis of potential biologically engineered solutions FOMs has been limited thus far. The selected projects will quantify the requirements of implementing their solution in space and provide key metrics to TRISH and NASA. The selected projects, expected to begin this summer are: 

Figures of Merit for Space-Based Production of a Therapeutic in Plants
PI: Karen McDonald, Ph.D. 
Institution: University of California, Davis 

Defining the Figures of Merit for an On-demand Astropharmacy
PI: Lynn Rothschild, Ph.D.  
Institution: NASA Ames Research Center 

TRISH is an applied space health research catalyst empowered by the NASA Human Research Program to solve the challenges of human deep space exploration. Led by Baylor College of Medicine's Center for Space Medicine, the consortium leverages partnerships with Caltech and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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