UA Birmingham

Organic/Inorganic Crystal Growth in Microgravity Using The Hybrid - High Density Protein Crystal Growth Experiment

Principal Investigator: Dr. Lawrence Delucas

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering (CBSE)

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) / Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering (CBSE) proposes to fly both scientific protein crystallization experiments and commercial inorganic crystal experiments in the accommodations provided by the Dragon Spacecraft. The experiment set up will include a proven flight incubator to provide a flight containment structure with on-orbit temperature control and a hybrid crystal growth platform that provides automated motor control to replace normal crew operations. The new platform will fly one hundred and twenty individual sample wells which will be activated and deactivated in unison once on orbit. The scientific sample wells will contain an assortment of organic proteins selected to criteria of importance to the scientific community and for their durability to temperature extremes that will be experienced in the prelaunch and recovery environment. These flight organic proteins will be carefully selected such that they are stable for at least one month and that crystallization at room temperature in a four-day microgravity period is feasible. These samples will include a number of high value aqueous and membrane proteins that will be contributed by the UAB/CBSE laboratory as well as scientists from several academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies. This initial flight opportunity will demonstrate the potential of microgravity in improving the diffraction characteristics of the challenging but critically important health-related protein crystallization projects.  The commercial inorganic crystallization experiments will provide a cost offset to the space flight by providing immediate and substantial revenue. These commercial inorganic crystals will provide a niche market of specialized space grown crystals marketed to the custom jewelry industry.  The following proposal will provide a detailed description of how the UAB/CBSE will take advantage of the commercial viability of this hardware to support valuable scientific protein structure research.

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