SpaceX shuttle carries cutting-edge experiment to Space Station that could help vision

Reporter: Amy Oshier

It’s quite a high to see your company’s research aboard the International Space Station but that’s what’s happening for LambdaVision, a company developing artificial retinas.

SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Wednesday and onboard the rocket is a cutting-edge experiment that may someday help save the vision of people here on Earth.

As part of the space economy, private companies are testing low Earth gravity, looking for benefits to manufacturing products in space.

“I often describe it as a bucket list item that I didn’t know was on my bucket list,” said Nicole Wagner, CEO of LambdaVision, a Connecticut-based company. “We were part of the Tech in Space prize and in 2016 and we were awarded that prize to do our first Pathfinder mission on SpaceX 16, which flew at the end of 20. And so, you know, as a vision company, a lot of the question is, you know, what the heck are you doing in space? How do you even get to space? And so for us, what we had to think about is, how do you take an experiment that is traditionally done on the ground, and miniaturize it to be suitable for a microgravity environment.”

Wagner and Chief Scientific Officer Jordan Greco are operating in unchartered territory, hoping the lack of gravity will help them create more perfect artificial retinas which may restore meaningful vision to people suffering from sight-sapping diseases including age-related macular degenration.

“We’re about two to three years away from clinical trials,” Greco said. “We have a long road ahead of us in terms of our non-clinical experiments now. But you know, as I said, we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re focused on improving the manufacturing to the point where we can create consistent and high-quality films.”

LambdaVision’s experiments are autonomous, contained in a cube lab. If successful, an integral part of the retinal implant will be manufactured in space at least one additional mission is scheduled to fine-tune the process.

“I think, for Jordan, and I, you know, a very unique experience. We’re loving learning more about, you know, the work that’s going on in microgravity and being part of really developing a low Earth orbit economy,” Wagner said.

The experiment doesn’t require a hands-on touch. They can tweak and change commands as needed from their headquarters on Earth.

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