TechVarda Space Industries capsule returns from space with potential breakthrough for HIV treatment

Varda Space Industries capsule returns from space with potential breakthrough for HIV treatment

W-1 Capsule on Earth
W-1 Capsule on Earth
Images source: © X | @VardaSpace
7:33 AM EST, February 24, 2024

Co-founded in 2020 by Will Bruey and Delian Asparouhov, Varda Space Industries is carving its name in history as the third private company to successfully return a space-launched capsule to Earth.

Their vision encapsulates the construction of space vehicles, solar farms, and the first moon colonies. The commencement of this mission is projected for within the next decade, with plans to establish the first space vehicle manufacturing plant in Earth's orbit by 2033.

Return of Varda Space Industries' W-1 Capsule

The company, which includes a former SpaceX employee among its ranks, has reported the safe return of the W-1 capsule from space. This marks one of their initial steps towards achieving more ambitious goals in space exploration. The capsule had been in space since June 12, 2023, and made its safe return on February 22 at a testing site in Utah, USA.

The return of the capsule signifies more than just a success for the company. On board the W-1 was an invaluable payload—space-produced ritonavir crystals that can be employed in the treatment of HIV. This organic compound inhibits the HIV protease in the human body, preventing the gag-pol precursor from acting. Consequently, the resultant HIV particles form an immature structure that is unable to initiate further infection cycles.

However, the reasons behind Varda Space Industries' decision to produce these crystals in the unique conditions of space warrants discussion. Microgravity bestows benefits to the production of ritonavir. It promotes the creation of larger and – typically – superior molecules than those that can be produced on Earth.

Varda Space Industries' scientists posit that space could potentially host drug factories that manufacture superior treatments for a range of diseases—maybe even the most lethal. But before space becomes a hub of pharmaceutical production, comprehensive analyses of the returned materials are necessary.

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