On board the rocket launch for the Transporter-8 Mission sat Varda’s satellite “W-Series 1”. Within the capsule sits the drug ritonavir, created by scientists at Improved Pharma and housed in engineering designed and built by Varda to conduct controlled experiments in microgravity. A little over an hour after launch, the satellite was deployed and acquisition of signal followed shortly. While in orbit, the drug will undergo melt/cool experiments to grow new crystals. In about a month, the capsule will return to earth, landing at a US Air Force range in Utah. After a successful recovery, the material will be analyzed to learn how ritonavir crystals grown in space differ from those grown on earth.

Why manufacture pharmaceuticals in space? By eliminating factors such as convection and sedimentation that influence crystallization in gravity, a molecule has the freedom to crystallize in different ways. These differences can lead to significant advantages such as controlled particle size, growth of crystals that can’t be grown on earth, or the invention of new polymorphic forms that could have properties more valuable than existing forms. And, once those crystals are grown in space, they can be used to seed crystallizations on earth to make more of the new form. More information about this exciting next-step in drug development can be found in recent articles in CNN and also in a deep dive report.

Developing new tools and advancing pharmaceutical development is a key part of Improved Pharma’s mission. In 2021, Improved Pharma had the unique opportunity to start polymorph screening research projects in close collaboration with Varda Space Industries with the intent of advancing pharmaceutical manufacturing. Their first joint research project was published in 2022 and announced the discovery of a new form of ritonavir. This research was recognized by Organic Process Research & Development as one of the top “remarkable accomplishments from the scientific literature that are expected to be relevant and important with future practical applications.” The research collaboration between Improved Pharma and Varda Space Industries will continue into future missions.

About Improved Pharma
Improved Pharma is a research, consulting, and information company dedicated to improving pharmaceutical methods, formulations, and processes. Services include solid-state form studies, formulation design, synchrotron techniques, analytical testing, and expert consulting for the development and defense of intellectual property matters. The company was founded in 2006 by Stephen and Sarah Byrn, who also founded SSCI. For more information about Improved Pharma’s services, please contact us at 1-765-463-9951 or info@improvedpharma.com.

About Varda Space Industries
Varda is a venture capital-backed company creating the first free-flying space stations and reentry vehicles ready-built for materials processing. Microgravity found in low Earth Orbit (LEO) makes it possible to precisely control the crystallization process during development and manufacturing to create valuable pharmaceutical products that cannot be created on Earth’s surface. Varda has raised $53m+ from a cadre of world-class venture capital firms including, but not limited to: Founders Fund, Lux Capital, Caffeinated Capital, Khosla Ventures, and General Catalyst. For more information about Varda please contact press@varda.com