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The BrownStanfordPrinctn team is proud to say we received the following awards for the 2019 iGEM competition:

Gold Medal Recipient

iGemer's Prize Recipient

Thank you to everyone for their support!

Welcome to the Astropharmacy!

Project Inspiration and Description

Medications degrade over time--especially in space--and take up precious mass and volume. With the push towards long-term human missions to the Moon and Mars, and the recently announced Artemis space program [1], the current model is not sustainable. It is disadvantageous to carry large quantities of medication into space because they occupy volume and increase upmass; the shelf-life of these drugs is limited and may degrade before they will be used. Even on Earth, there are many people without access to medicine because of social, economic, and environmental conditions that decrease affordability or prevent proper storage. There is therefore a vast need for a Point-of-Care drug production system usable in remote locations on Earth and in space environments that is capable of producing doses of medication from simple biological precursors within hours. This will allow for the production of safe pharmaceuticals that can be used immediately.

Our solution is to create an “Astropharmacy”, a system to synthesize peptide-based drugs on demand in cellular or cell-free expression systems. The “Astropharmacy” is divided into three stages: disease diagnosis, drug production, and drug purification.

To diagnose, we aim to develop a novel paper-based microfluidic device using fusion protein-directed channels as an alternative to wax-based channels [2]. This overcomes the complex fabrication and expense constraints of PDMS microfluidics by replicating the same micro resolution on paper. Therefore, improving the cost, mass, disposability and convenience of diagnosing disease.

To produce, we plan to synthesize three different proteins with Earth and/or space applications using cellular and cell-free systems. Cellular systems candidates include Vibrio natriegens derived VmaxTM [3] and Bacillus subtilis [4], which are chosen because of enhanced production efficiency and prior survival in long-term space missions, respectively. Cell-free systems take advantage of the transcriptional and translational machinery to generate high protein yields by operating outside the living constraints of a cell [5]. Both systems have the ability to synthesize drugs on demand, allowing us to bypass shelf-life and storage constraints.

To purify, we will use a PDMS microfluidic chip to collect the product; these devices can be automated for future scalability of this process, allowing increased access to this type of technology [6].

Jumping for joy in the Northern California sun.


  1. Dunbar, Brian. “What is Artemis?” NASA, 20 May 2019,
  3. The research conducted by the 2018 Marburg iGEM team gave us inspiration to purse Vmax as a chassis.
  4. Newcombe, David A., et al. “Survival of Spacecraft-Associated Microorganisms under Simulated Martian UV Irradiation.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, vol. 71, no. 12, Dec. 2005, pp. 8147–56., doi:10.1128/AEM.71.12.8147-8156.2005.
  5. Pardee, Keith, et al. “Portable, On-Demand Biomolecular Manufacturing.” Cell, vol. 167, no. 1, Sept. 2016, pp. 248-259.e12. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2016.09.013.
  6. Murphy, Travis W., et al. “On-Chip Manufacturing of Synthetic Proteins for Point-of-Care Therapeutics.” Microsystems & Nanoengineering, vol. 5, no. 1, Mar. 2019, p. 13., doi:10.1038/s41378-019-0051-8.