4 16 16 Jim Sterling KGI Faculty

Technologies Developed at KGI Enable RNA Analysis at the International Space Station

On Friday, April 8, SpaceX successfully launched the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying a set of life science experiments that utilizes a lysis technology originally developed at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) in Claremont, California. The booster successfully returned to earth and landed on a ship at sea, an important first-time milestone. The Dragon cargo spacecraft carrying the experiments and other supplies took a few days to reach the International Space Station (ISS) and was captured by astronauts on April 10.

The life science experiments developed at NASA Ames were delivered to the ISS and included a module known as Wetlab-2, which contains sample preparation devices and reagents developed by Claremont BioSolutions, LLC (ClaremontBio), a spin-out of KGI that was founded by three KGI faculty members.

While on board the ISS, the WetLab-2 module will be used to study how spaceflight affects gene expression in microbes and mammalian cells to shed light on molecular and cellular mechanisms in microgravity environments. The customized OmniLyse®, microHomogenizerTM, and RNAexpressTM components of ClaremontBio’s SimplePrepTMtechnology will seamlessly lyse bacteria, yeast, and mammalian cells and isolate total RNA for downstream analysis. As part of NASA’s flight qualifications, ClaremontBio’s technology was rigorously tested for over two years, including efficiency and reproducibility tests in non-orbital, in-flight microgravity conditions.

Dr. Mark Brown, director of applications development at ClaremontBio and KGI PPM alumnus said, “We are thrilled to work with the NASA Ames team and see ClaremontBio’s rapid lysis and nucleic acid extraction technology integrated into their WetLab-2 sample preparation module. Their team integrated our technologies within an impressive system that will allow extraction of high quality RNA from a range of samples and downstream gene expression analysis.”

ClaremontBio’s President and co-founder, Dr. Robert Doebler said, “Claremont BioSolutions is excited and honored to be part of the WetLab-2 project. Our core devices are ideal for applications that require low power, compact size, and ease-of-use. WetLab-2’s Sample Prep Module will provide a unique validation of our technology.”

Reflecting on the role KGI has played in this project, Dr. Jim Sterling, KGI professor and co-founder of Claremont BioSolutions added, “We are very pleased that technologies developed in KGI labs have enabled RNA analysis in space. Rapid and simple nucleic acid extraction opens new avenues for point-of-care diagnostics and novel approaches to automation of life sciences research.”

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