The USC School of Pharmacy is launching its research into outer space, thanks to Associate Professor Clay Wang’s three-year, $600,000 grant from the national Space Biology Program — the first time the school has received grant support from NASA.
The research project will look at how microgravity environments influence the effectiveness of drugs. Wang will be conducting his research with experts from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“NASA is interested in the biology of organisms — their DNA, RNA and metabolic levels — and how they behave in space,” explained Wang, whose area of expertise is natural organisms that produce drugs. “Organisms produce different drugs under different conditions. They are smart, and they only make drugs when they need them.”
Wang will be looking specifically at fungi — the first time any study of fungi in space will be undertaken.
“I hope that my research will lead to the discovery of new drugs that could be used in space,” he said.
Only 26 proposals from across the nation received funding. Wang’s project is unique in that it is the only one taking on a project from a drug discovery point of view. The approved research projects will be conducted aboard the International Space Station.
“The research will help uncover new basic knowledge that other NASA researchers and engineers can use to solve problems confronting human exploration of space or that could lead to new biological tools or applications on Earth,” according to a NASA statement.
Wang also has received funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health.