Biomanufacturing In Space: Axiom Space’s Bold Vision

7 minute read

WFIRM's gyroid shaped tissue construct

Some things are worth traveling for. We drive the extra hour to one-of-a-kind restaurants, we cross state lines for best-in-class specialists and we travel days to experience unrivaled natural wonders.

One day, there will be products that we have to travel across the Kármán Line to develop because they can’t be manufactured on Earth. Axiom Space is at the forefront of that endeavor.

This Winston-Salem company is partnering with world-renowned leaders in medical research and blasting off to reach new heights of innovation. From private astronaut missions to in-space biomanufacturing, Axiom Space is going where no company has gone before — for something they can’t get anywhere else.

Who is Axiom Space?

Axiom Space pioneers the pursuit of building the world’s first commercial space station with its exclusive access to the sole remaining docking port on the International Space Station (ISS). Axiom Space has a mission to improve life on Earth and foster the possibilities beyond it, and a vision of creating a thriving home in space that benefits every human, everywhere.

Working to build the first commercial space station, Axiom Station, Axiom Space will bring countries, academic institutions, government partnerships and industry specialists to space to create a thriving low-Earth orbit (LEO) economy. This innovative venture will provide better access to environments for groundbreaking research and manufacturing innovation, as the company leads the way in advancing the technology and infrastructure necessary for continuing to maintain a permanent human presence in space.

Private Astronaut Missions Make History While Expanding Access to Space

“While we wait for our station to come online at the end of 2025, we’re going to be using our private astronaut missions to conduct research on the ISS.”

Pinar Mesci, In-Space Manufacturing Program Manager, Axiom Space

The spring 2023 Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) is taking a four-person, multinational crew to the ISS to perform more than 20 experiments. This marks Axiom Space as the first in history to bring a Saudi woman to space. These missions are setting the stage for living and working in space while extending research and in-space manufacturing opportunities for those with currently limited access. A privilege once reserved for government entities through NASA, private companies and specialized scientists could soon be taking their research to greater depths by bringing it to LEO.

“It’s like turning the lights on in a dark room; in microgravity you can see things in a way that you haven’t seen them before, and it helps you to then think about your science in a completely different way.”

Jana Stoudemire, Director of In-Space Manufacturing, Axiom Space

These missions also enable Axiom Space to conduct research on the ISS in collaboration with several renowned institutions, including the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) and the RegenMed Development Organization (ReMDO). Together, they are working on a precursor mission to improve vascularization of thick tissue in microgravity in advance of longer duration missions on the ISS. The project is one of several regenerative medicine projects that have the potential to lead to future in-space manufacturing applications using state-of-the-art capabilities on the Axiom Space research and manufacturing facility for biomedical products.

Through its partnerships with institutions across the globe, Ax-2 is expanding access for users to perform proof-of-concept studies and cutting-edge advancements in microgravity. This will help accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and innovation.

Wake Forest Partnership Paves the Way for Future Space Exploration and Regenerative Medicine Technologies

Through investigating the influence of microgravity on regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, this partnership aims to develop new solutions for patients on Earth—from tissue constructs helping to address the organ shortage and more. Together, Axiom Space and WFIRM are at the forefront of advancing human health through space-based research and biomanufacturing.

A WFIRM researcher holds a gyroid-shaped tissue construct
A WFIRM researcher holds a gyroid-shaped tissue construct.
ReMDO’s RegeneratOR Test Bed offers access to biomanufacturing equipment and an ultra-sterile environment in a contained workspace.
ReMDO’s RegeneratOR Test Bed offers access to biomanufacturing equipment and an ultra-sterile environment in a contained workspace.

This research could have important implications for developing medical treatments and therapies that benefit patients on Earth and future space travelers. Microgravity conditions can significantly impact the behavior of cells, tissues and organs. Data collected in-flight will enhance researchers’ understanding of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. This information will be valuable for improving healthcare and medical treatments for people on Earth, as well as for future human spaceflight pursuits.

WFIRM’s technologies combined with Axiom Space’s expertise are transformative in accelerating regenerative medicine and will take the field to the next level. As a first endeavor, they’re focusing on “building blocks” of tissue that can be bioengineered in space, potentially serving as a bridge to transplants for patients awaiting a limited supply of donor organs. Additionally, by leveraging the strength of ReMDO and the RegenMed Hub, Axiom and the WFIRM team are working to create the first in-space biomanufacturing hub here in Winston-Salem. This includes setting the standards and developing the capabilities for future in-space manufacturing of regenerative medicine therapies.

“We’ve figured out how to send tissues to the space station and keep them viable. So that might be helpful when we’re thinking of transporting tissues not just across the state line but across the globe and beyond…even across the Kármán Line.” —Jana Stoudemire, Director of In-Space Manufacturing, Axiom Space 

Given that microgravity accelerates the aging process, this phenomenon could potentially be leveraged to revolutionize the fields of stem cell research and tissue engineering. Technologies that may take up to a year on Earth could potentially be expedited to a week in microgravity. Axiom Space is excited to reside within the Innovation Quarter located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to create something that doesn’t exist anywhere else.

Axiom Space’s Prime Location in Winston-Salem’s RegenMed Hub Accelerates Innovation in Space Exploration

As part of Winston-Salem’s RegenMed Hub, Axiom Space sits among some of the top biomanufacturing and tissue engineering experts, institutions, regenerative medicine companies and resources. The city also provides unique access to millions of patients through clinical trials.

“We want everybody who’s doing the best in regenerative medicine to be working with us in space as we help to define new markets.” —Jana Stoudemire, Director of In-Space Manufacturing, Axiom Space

Axiom Space also recognizes Winston-Salem’s role in attracting and recruiting highly skilled, highly sought-after talent. Home to the renowned Wake Forest University School of Medicine and several health science organizations, the city draws experts in regenerative medicine. Access to talent from the T-32 Training Program, externships and other student programs allows the company to showcase the space side of medicine to students while utilizing their skills. Axiom Space is not just looking for engineers who know about robotics or rockets but for experts in their scientific fields that can help build these new markets in microgravity.

Commercial Space Station Development Signals Promising Future for Axiom Space’s Space Innovation

Axiom Space’s commercial space station’s state-of-the-art equipment and capabilities can enable breakthroughs in areas such as human health and sustainability, ultimately advancing long-term space travel. Moreover, Axiom Space’s efforts to create a circular economy between LEO and other planets can help reduce the cost and resources required for space exploration and colonization.

While the vision of a thriving home in space is still in its early stages, Axiom Space is making significant progress. Creating a commercial space station that enables groundbreaking research and innovation is a paradigm shift that will benefit humanity in numerous ways. While there is still much work to be done, Axiom Space’s vision provides an exciting glimpse into the future of space exploration and innovation.

“I’m watching it all take shape right before my eyes…the potential that we have to develop a really powerful in-space biomanufacturing hub as a team together with Winston-Salem and Wake Forest. It’s amazing.” —Jana Stoudemire, Director of In-Space Manufacturing, Axiom Space

Become a Part of the Regenerative Medicine Hub

Winston-Salem and the Innovation Quarter have become an epicenter of highly interactive science and technology that has added to the city’s growth as a result of collaborative leadership and vision. If you’re a regenerative medicine startup or company that would like to get plugged into the Innovation Quarter’s resources, please get in touch.

Cover of eBook: Why the Future of Regenerative Medicine is in Winston-Salem

The Future of Regenerative Medicine Is in Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter represents the convergence of ideas, research, resources and expertise. The resulting innovation ecosystem fosters developments in regenerative medicine that are transforming clinical treatments and therapies.