Fifth stop / Spacepharma in Delémont
An ultra-sophisticated laboratory that would fit into a shoe box, hurled hundreds of kilometres above the earth at a speed of more than 7,000 metres per second. That is the technological feat in the works at SpacePharma, a company founded in 2012 and based in Delémont, Switzerland.
“The first launch into orbit of one of our satellites is scheduled for mid-2015,” says Martin Aebi, Managing Director. “All the laboratory components and the remote control and data transmission systems were developed by our engineers. The launch into orbit itself will be carried out in partnership with the company Swiss Space Systems, headquartered in Payerne.” About thirty launches are planned between now and 2020.
An organism freed from the forces of gravitation quickly reacts in different ways. Microgravity provides researchers with insight that is particularly useful for studying fundamental growth and degeneration mechanisms in the body. “In addition to their application in regenerative medicine, our satellite laboratories are also likely to interest microbiologists and pharmacologists. In a microgravity environment, bacterial virulence increases, so we can rapidly test antibiotics resistance. Experiments on fluids are also promising, as the blends obtained in conditions of weightlessness are extremely consistent.”
Martin Aebi explains that SpacePharma’s main challenge today is to attract industry and research institutes. “What was once a luxury tool for researchers is becoming affordable and available worldwide. It’s both a promise and a gamble: using space as a resource to improve life on earth.”
SpacePharma employs 14 people, most of whom are based at the research and development centre in Israel. Choosing Delémont as the company headquarters offered considerable advantages,” Martin Aebi says. “The region is a biotechnology hub, offers attractive infrastructure, is tax-friendly and features a cantonal economic development programme that supports innovative companies.”