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BioTech in Space with Dr. Heath Mills

Join Tim and Heath today while they discuss BioTech in Space!

Dr. Heath J. Mills is an extreme environment microbial ecologist. As the current Chief Scientific Officer for Rhodium Scientific, he leads initiatives to expand terrestrial and spaceflight research capacities into the commercial biotechnology sector. Over the past six years in the commercial space industry, Dr. Mills has been a Principal Investigator and co-Investigator on over 20 International Space Station science and engineering projects funded privately and by the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health and the ISSNL. Recently, Mills was appointed to the ISSNL User Advisory Committee to serve on the Technology Development Subcommittee.

With academic degrees from Duke University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Mills has over 19 years’ experience studying extreme environment ecosystems from a biogeochemical perspective. He has published over 40 publications that have collected more than 1800 citations, where he used advanced molecular techniques to characterize microbial community structure and function from locations across and beneath the Earth. Dr. Mills has championed extreme environment research for two decades by leading international collaborations, advising governmental agencies, organizing scientific workshops and teaching academic classes in 15 different countries.

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Full Transcript:

[00:00:11] Tim Chrisman: All right. Welcome to another edition of Podcast for the Future. I'm your host, Tim Chrisman today. We're joined by Dr. Heath Mills. He is an extreme environment micro. Microbial. Oh, there we go. Microbial ecologist. And I'm going to say that three times faster when we're done here. As the current chief scientific officer for Rhodium Scientific leads initiatives to expand terrestrial and space flight research capacities into the commercial biotechnology center.

[00:00:47] There. Over the past six years in the commercial space industry. Dr. Mills has been a principal investigator and co-investigator over 20 international space station science and engineering projects. [00:01:00] Those projects have been funded privately by the DOD national science foundation, national Institute of health and more because of his work Dr.

[00:01:07] Mills was recently appointed to the international space stations, national lab, user advisory committee to help serve on their technology development subcommittee to advise station on what they need. Dr. Mills has academic degrees from duke university and the Georgia Institute of technology. He has over 19 years of experience studying extreme environment ecosystem from a biogeochemical perspective, he has published over 40.

[00:01:37] Publications that have collected more than 1800 citations, where he used advanced molecular techniques to characterize microbial community structure and functions from locations across and beneath the earth. Dr. Mills has championed extreme environment research for two decades by leading international collaborations, advising government agencies, organizing scientific workshops [00:02:00] and teaching academic classes in 15 different countries.

[00:02:04] Quite an impressive bio. Okay.

[00:02:07] Alrighty, I'm joined today by Heath. Excited to have you here, Heath. We're we connected I guess there was a couple months back and I'm really excited that we're able to bring you on to the podcast here to hear more about what rhodium Scientific's doing, what you're doing and hear what it is that is.

[00:02:28] Really exciting over there in the world of biotech meeting space.

[00:02:35] Heath Mills: Yeah. Glad to be here, Tim. And obviously it's been fun talking with you before and our connection and our overlaps in the basket been great and really want to. Explore that whole idea of why biotech in space and what's going on with that emerging market.

[00:02:52] And it's not just a space is no longer just an environment for satellite builders and metal benders. Now we're talking about [00:03:00] genetics and bioengineering and bio-manufacturing and the new area of what space is going to be all about. So looking forward to talking today about

[00:03:09] Tim Chrisman: this. Yeah, definitely want to get into that.

[00:03:11] But before we go let's start what was your journey to space? It's not common for PhDs in biology to end up here in the space sector. So what did that look like?

[00:03:23] Heath Mills: Yeah, no, definitely a different route, but in many ways an understandable one. So you're right. My, my background is in molecular microbiology.

[00:03:35] I did my undergraduate work at duke university long time ago. Just celebrated my 25th anniversary at camp and got my biology degree. Found out that an understood with all the different programs I was in at duke that I really wanted to go to grad school and the grad school route. So I joined a graduate program at Georgia tech, where I got my PhD in applied microbiology.

[00:03:56] So that's where I really got into the molecular genetics [00:04:00] side, understanding genetics and understanding how to learn about life through DNA and RNA. But also there's where I got into extreme environment work. And that's where I did four different sub dives. So hopping in submarines and going to the bottom of the nation four different times, trying to understand how life exists and persist at the edge of what we know of as the biosphere, where life is on.

[00:04:28] And so with that, I carried that through a post-doc at Florida state expanding that understanding and that reach for where life exists on earth. I got a faculty position at Texas a and M, and worked with the integrated ocean drilling program. Cross the ocean drilling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge spending 10 weeks at sea.

[00:04:50] I've been in the middle of the Pacific ocean doing research and really crazy environments, extreme environments on earth, but always tracking through. [00:05:00] Where is life? Why is it there? How is it there? What is it doing there? And then moving from a and M down to the university of Houston, clear lake, and always being a fan of NASA and the space industry got a little too close to Johnson space center, and they suck me into the commercial space area because the work that I had been doing before.

[00:05:21] Going down into the depths of the biosphere was directly translatable to going up and going into the new biosphere, which is how life exists within the microgravity environment. And so that's the route and you can see that there's threads there through the whole way but yeah. Molecular genetics guy working in space.

[00:05:43] Tim Chrisman: Yeah. That's that's pretty crazy. And right now you're both the chief scientific officer for rhodium scientific and one of the Advisors for the international space station national lab. Is that right?

[00:05:58] Heath Mills: That is correct. So some of my [00:06:00] main day job is with rhodium scientific, where I am the chief scientific officer.

[00:06:04] My main purview, there is my main roles is to help researchers and health science teams translate what they do at the benchtop, where they doing their lab into flight feasible protocols into flight hardware. To be able to move that research from the benchtop to space with that overall arching goal of reducing the variables, reducing the unknown so that the work that's done in space can build upon what the labs have been doing on.

[00:06:37] So you're not comparing apples to oranges. You're not resetting your research. You're building from what you've done in the past and going forward by using space as opposed to starting all over. So that's part of it. And then with, also with rhodium, I also do the mission integration and operation side, which means I then go in and do the safety data packages and do the integration into the [00:07:00] NASA.

[00:07:01] Process and pipeline, get these payloads onto the vehicle, get them on orbit, operate them and bring them back. So with my team, I work with a team that's busy and very busy getting everything together and working on rapid timelines. So that's the rhodium side. And then the ISS national lab side is I am on the user advisory committee on the tech development subcommittee.

[00:07:27] With the charge there of both identifying and recognizing what technology is currently available, how to make that technology better and better accessible, but also identifying gaps in that technology where if we had hardware, X, we can now help support this community or this research. So it's a new process.

[00:07:51] It's a new committee. And we're working through that charge but so far it's been, I think it's been helpful and definitely I've enjoyed being on it. [00:08:00]

[00:08:00] Tim Chrisman: Yeah, that's cool. When you're saying the hardware that's hardware on station that supports researchers, correct?

[00:08:06] Heath Mills: Correct. The more tools that we have to work with on orbit, the more research that can be done, whether it's onboard analytics or say incubator space.

[00:08:15] But also what that looks like moving forward with what is what's new out there. What's new on the market that we don't have on board and where it should be being developed that technology to match up with a growing interest on that.

[00:08:30] Tim Chrisman: Yeah and one thing I'm fascinated with is, we've had 20 plus years to build this national lab in orbit and there's increasing talk of transitioning the ISS.

[00:08:41] I assume the national lab will still exist. It's just a matter of waiting. Is that being talked about or is it still too far

[00:08:51] Heath Mills: in the future? Oh no. It's absolutely being talked about and you're exactly right. Is that what is space station? 2.0, going to look [00:09:00] like? Will there be two, three or four?

[00:09:02] How will they be operated? The national lab is definitely looking at ways of continuing to provide the same services that they're doing with the main service being coalescing, that commercial space market and working through a collective channel to help. Facilitate streamline that onboarding process.

[00:09:21] And so they are looking at continuing presence. Right now there's several horses in the race in terms of what will be the next space station. The commercial Leo destination procurement contracts were announced last fall with three different companies being awarded or three different space stations with multiple companies.

[00:09:39] Being awarded as initial contracts. So yeah, no, we'll see what that looks like, but there's a lot of lessons that can be learned both from back in the shuttle days to how ISS was operated. And so having that residual knowledge that industry and understanding of what's happened to go forward is going to be very valuable.

[00:09:58] Hopefully we learn [00:10:00] from the lessons and make it even better going forward. It's

[00:10:02] Tim Chrisman: true. And I would imagine as a researcher, the idea that you can almost start over with a lab and build it from the ground up is exciting because now you don't have, everything from legacy. Computer connections through air lakes turns out

[00:10:21] Heath Mills: great.

[00:10:21] And I guess the term you used is never been more appropriate from the ground up. Yes, actually what they're looking at on this. It's always better to build. And especially when you're getting with a laboratory situation, and this is something that rhodium actually was founded as a terrestrial company to support laboratory optimization, workflow optimization both from the equipment side, but also from the personnel side.

[00:10:45] So with that legacy and what we've learned in the past, from where Olivia Hall's house started a company. It's always better to start a lab when the lab is the initial designed focus, as opposed to [00:11:00] retrofitting a building that's already built to now get a lab into it. And so it's good to be able to be in some of the conversations with the station developers now with where should we put this?

[00:11:14] Why should this go here? How many of these should be in there as opposed to okay. Here's the module? Here's your constraints. Good luck. It changes it. And hopefully that will benefit the overall scientific community in the long run, because they are designed with a modern lab.

[00:11:34] Tim Chrisman: True. And I remember growing up and thinking oh my gosh, international space station, like this is amazingly technologically advanced.

[00:11:43] And now I look at pictures of it and I'm like, oh my God, there are so many cables everywhere. It's just so much. Yeah. If you're a minimalist you're really uncomfortable looking at those photos. Yeah. We're

[00:11:58] Heath Mills: OCD. It would be [00:12:00] a nightmare with it but it is, there's a rhyme. There's a reason there's meaning with it.

[00:12:04] And even to the point that even some of the lockers that we use, we understand what the hardware is around. I guess some of them are heat sources, some produce more or less the air flow changes those little nuances. With a biotech side, like what we're focusing life science focused in on a small variation in temperature can make a big difference in the overall success or product that's being produced.

[00:12:31] So those were not necessarily taken into consideration when the initial designs were put in place. And so now. We have put in controls, we put in temperature, loggers, we put in those to understand those nuances. Then the hope is that with the new designs going forward, it is with a more of a science minded understanding and direction as opposed to engineering wise.

[00:12:57] Can we do it? Yes, it's a biological. Should [00:13:00] we do it? Hopefully it will be some of the drivers to make this lab. Functional. Yeah. Yeah,

[00:13:07] Tim Chrisman: no, I remember learning, I guess it was almost 10 years ago now about how power lines coming into commercial buildings can disrupt electronics and other really sensitive equipment.

[00:13:20] You have to like condition it in order to keep that out. And I was like blown away. I'm like, oh my God this is wild. And so I can only imagine, we were talking about. Fairly sensitive electronics, not terribly. But with some of these life science stuff there's gotta be a huge range of things.

[00:13:35] That'll mess with your experiment.

[00:13:37] Heath Mills: Exactly. Exactly. And in a terrestrial lab, you've taken consideration with those, how many freezers or refrigerators do you put into one room? How much heat is that going to generate? How do you dissipate that heat? What's your power load was system equipment because you don't want a power.

[00:13:52] In the middle of something that is very sensitive with that draw. And so it, terrestrial labs are built that way and are understood in [00:14:00] that location in there. And the foresight is built into that original blueprint with this and with locations of opportunity to put in new pieces of hardware that's not always possible to happen.

[00:14:12] And it is, and what we've seen and part of the reason why Olivia got in and moved the company into this direct. Was that the higher, more intense biological biotech researchers, the big pharma, big bioenergy, the bio manufacturing, those sides would take a look behind the curtain and see how things were being operated.

[00:14:34] And we're hesitant to move into this market by now focusing on the science and saying, okay, we understand what variances and incubator means to you, what it means for timelines to have variances in them. We've been able to start pulling in some of those bigger. Projects, the bigger names to, to trust that what happens on station is going to match [00:15:00] what happens in their terrestrial lab.

[00:15:01] And so it takes everything that you were talking about, understanding of the cables, understanding of the temperatures, to understanding of all these different variables from an engineering perspective, with science in mind to make this thing. Yeah.

[00:15:14] Tim Chrisman: Now I am very glad this is not what I have to concern myself with.

[00:15:19] Because as I was saying to somebody else I was talking to recently, I always liked the idea of space and working in space, but a calculus I'm not a fan of. And I don't have enough attention to detail to do this sort of thing you're talking about. And so I am really glad there are people like you It

[00:15:36] Heath Mills: puts a whole new term to rocket science.

[00:15:38] It really does. It's not what the textbook, if you open a textbook as to see what it means and what it, what the definition of it is, it's, it is a very different form of rocket science because we're putting the big science with a little rocket on it. So it's, we have to focus on the science to make the rocket.

[00:15:55] Tim Chrisman: Yeah, no. And the range of new [00:16:00] biotech experiments and technology being developed for and in space is amazing. I was reading recently about Oregon's some experiments around 3d printing organs, or at least the cells forum in space. I'm sure. I don't know, half of what's going on.

[00:16:14] What are some of the exciting things that are being talked about or actually done?

[00:16:20] Heath Mills: Oh yeah, no, you're right. And there's always something new. There's always something coming around and we really appreciate the increased media presence with a lot of what's happening right now. It's getting bigger headlines.

[00:16:31] The findings are coming out more frequently. And so I think this is only going to grow in the future but some of those big areas and you picked up on one with the tissue engineering, with the Oregon growth with the 3d printing back whole side has obviously distinct advantages being in space.

[00:16:48] If you're building a 3d to. Especially when you get into defines scale capillary construction on earth, there's obvious problems with defamation there's problems with gravity changing the [00:17:00] shape of the tissues that you're producing in space. You don't have that problem. You have other problems and mechanical problems and things like this.

[00:17:07] And there's some good hardware out there right now. That's doing some 3d bioprinting on orbit. But this is a market that will only grow. It will only start to build. The bio-manufacturing side is another very big one. ISS and L talks about that a lot. Rhodium, we have a full program now for bio-manufacturing we've flown five missions that have been dedicated to bio manufacturing in different portions of it of that whole process, because.

[00:17:31] You are taking advantage of this novel environment where some bacteria, some microbes grow faster, they grow slower, they produce different molecules. They behave differently just like with all the traveling that we've been doing. We were a little colder in Denver, a little warmer here in Houston.

[00:17:47] And based upon your environment, you behave differently, the microbes do the same thing. And can you take advantage of those differences to produce compounds of interest or the [00:18:00] terrestrial markets? And so bio-manufacturing is a big market right now and we'll own. Expand going forward, especially when you start getting into the new space stations, but then the other big area right now is also in the drug discovery markets and that side and understanding how.

[00:18:17] These microbes change their behaviors in space and may not be a product of say a new a nutrient they're producing. It may be something that is more of a pharmaceutical or nutraceutical. And so those areas also tend to be. A burgeoning market in space that you'll see these become more popular as you go forward.

[00:18:39] With the better understanding of how biology behaves in space with better run experiments, better constraint experiments, but also with the scalable side, going to the new. Space stations. This is where the industry will start really taking off no pun intended, but going in that DeWalt.

[00:18:57] Tim Chrisman: Yeah. And most of these things that [00:19:00] you're talking about, they're not.

[00:19:01] For just for the astronauts, it's that, that's something that often comes up in conversations, especially here in DC is, Hey, why are we spending so much in space? There's hungry people, there's other problems here on earth. And, I think this biotech piece is a great example to use and saying look.

[00:19:20] We're not shooting pallets of money into space. This is experiments into life-saving treatments that we otherwise wouldn't be able to do. No, you're

[00:19:31] Heath Mills: a hundred percent right with it. And this is where, and I had these similar conversations and arguments, and even with doing some advocacy and the DC area, when I was with my.

[00:19:42] Former life would be an academic. When I was doing a bunch of oceanography, we don't go in the ocean to study how to protect a sailor at sea. We go to the ocean to brew, to help benefit those back on land. That's why all that money was put into those. That's why we went out and study the ocean. [00:20:00] That's why we farm the ocean.

[00:20:01] That's why we go out and do the fisheries in the ocean. We don't do it to support the sailors, although they enjoy the fresh fish. And there was also. We bring that back to land and we use it back in the terrestrial areas, same thing with space. We're going there to benefit back here. And as an entrepreneur, we always talk about if your market has eight people in it, are you really, do you really have a big market?

[00:20:23] If it has a billion, which one do you choose to go for it? And so we are going up there to help benefit down here, understanding those resources. What can we fit? For verbally, what can we bring back as a resource? What can we transit back and forth between the two? Like we do ships on the sea to benefit those in the terrestrial areas.

[00:20:47] So it's the same direction, same style. And once when people realize that space is not just for those in space, that's when policies start shifting and things like that start to open up even.

[00:20:59] Tim Chrisman: [00:21:00] Yeah, it's true. And I think, over the past year, when we've seen everything from Netflix specials to regular people going to space there's a categorical shift in how people are looking and thinking about space, which I think is going to be really helpful.

[00:21:14] Heath Mills: Oh, absolutely. And all of the publicity from all the tourists missions, the different missions from William Shatner going to space that got a lot of. The mission is with blue origin with space X. Now with Axiom one, all of these are just increasing that exposure as to why, or that, Hey, it is accessible. We are going that direct.

[00:21:38] I like having them the follow up question and starting to be able to answer it, but why are we going? Why are we doing all of that? And again, the analogy goes back and there's a great one with it. The first ships that left the old world to come here, weren't cruise line right now. Doesn't mean people didn't take pleasure cruises and they didn't hop on a [00:22:00] boat and sail around the west coast of Europe.

[00:22:03] Sure, absolutely. Got that. You also looked at these as cargo baskets and that's what now with the rise of what we were talking about earlier about the different markets and you're hearing more success and you're hearing more investment in those areas. Those are going to be some big conversations going forward because that's going to help out everybody back on earth, not just provide a fun ride for a few people.

[00:22:30] Although I'd love to be on one of those rides

[00:22:33] Tim Chrisman: for sure. I've Talked with both my daughters about going to space. And one of them is really into it. She she, the, I guess it was almost four years ago, maybe five years ago. Now she described to me what a space elevator would look like. Cause she was like so excited, but she was like, I don't want to take a rocket.

[00:22:51] I have to get a shot if I go on a rocket to space. And I was like, oh, okay, that's fair. But I do need to start asking some of these private astronauts that have gone up. Did [00:23:00] you have to get any shots because that will really change her perspective. That's it? The

[00:23:05] Heath Mills: drops or barrier of entry, yes. Now she's ready.

[00:23:08] Tim Chrisman: Yeah. In her mind, it's like money, like whatever dad has money, but I don't want to

[00:23:17] Heath Mills: personally painful at that point. You're like Paula got a line.

[00:23:21] Tim Chrisman: Good thing. You've you have good

[00:23:22] Heath Mills: thing. You've defined it there. What was actually interesting on that is, is in some of the research that's being done right now, though, is to make that overall experience. Yeah, for those that are going up, because there are maladies and you talk to the astronauts, you talk to the astronauts that have gone up.

[00:23:36] And those first three days on omit, aren't the easiest three days to acclimate and finding ways to. Protect those astronauts slash tourists, give them countermeasures against motion sickness about dystrophy within their their gut microbiomes, changing those different things to make that experience more pleasurable, more useful.

[00:23:59] But then [00:24:00] also from an operational standpoint to those provide those that are going up to do work or provide a service. So they don't have downtime and lose precious time. Those are huge areas that need to be addressed to make working in space better. Everybody puts on a Dramamine patch to go out in the ocean for a half day fishing trip.

[00:24:22] Yeah. What's going to be the equivalent to go to space. Will it be Dramamine? Will it be something else? Will it be three things? Hopefully it's not a shot so that your daughter comes, what will it take to make that. More fun or more function. Depending on your purpose of travel.

[00:24:42] Tim Chrisman: Yeah, no one is more work, starts moving up there.

[00:24:47] Then the incentive to develop some of these really kicks off. I mean I grew up in Alaska and so we had tons of people who'd work on the north. It's fairly expensive to fly them in and out. And so those guys had amazing food. They had [00:25:00] amazing health care on site because the idea was, look, there should be, we want no downtime for anything.

[00:25:05] We want morale to be great, no downtime. And I. Gonna be the same in space because you don't want to send somebody back because they got grumpy about the food or motion sickness. Yes. You

[00:25:18] Heath Mills: don't want a two star review when you spending all that money, but you actually hit on a couple of points right there.

[00:25:26] And to think about what you were saying about the north slope on that side. They've got amazing food. They've got amazing healthcare. They got all of these amazing resources, which then means the tourist. Isn't the only one going to space. There's a whole support industry that has to be developed to be able to support those that are going up.

[00:25:42] And and the hospitality industry, the sport, the support structure industry, those sides understand that for every one person that goes into the hotel, there may be three people behind the scenes or four people. And especially in a specialized environment like this, what is. Scale of individuals going up and what services [00:26:00] will they need to provide the oil industry around here?

[00:26:02] Living in Houston, a lot of friends and colleagues are spending four weeks off, four weeks on going on the rigs and coming off. How are those type workers going to be adapted to this type of environment you can see now, bigger support structures, more understanding that needs to be done. So it's not just going to be eight people in.

[00:26:23] In the next four or five years, it may be tens of and many more in the future. And then future studies and working with NASA, we're always talking about going out lunar and going out to Mars. That's not just going to be six people. That's going to have to be a sustained presence over a long period of time.

[00:26:41] And it's fundamental studies that are being done now that will help. And provide the functionality and fees feasibility going forward. Again, going back to what you know, and always going back to history, scurvy, it was great to solve what that was. [00:27:00] What's space skirting. What's going to be the equivalent of it that we will, or maybe already are being afflicted by and don't know it yet.

[00:27:08] And all it would take is a little vitamin C and it's gone. What is that? Calendar countermeasure. So that's some of the projects that we're working on right now. And then some of the agencies within the government right now are really considering this as a, we got to get ahead of this game because it's not just going to be highly in physically suited flight.

[00:27:32] Yeah, air force veterans that are in top condition as the AF air force, as the astronaut Corps has been through the military individuals, men, and women that have gone up they're in great condition. Let's get the average person up there and get them healthy, and get them functional and get them back.

[00:27:50] They realize that there's a lot of work that needs to be done, and it is back to the fundamental levels. And that's, what's fun to look at. We've seen X happen. [00:28:00] What's why is that X happened? Let's figure it out. Let's make a counter measure. Let's make sure that it's mitigated. So they stay functional and orbit.

[00:28:08] Yeah.

[00:28:09] Tim Chrisman: And I you're right. That as the variety of people proliferate, I like to joke, Jeff Bezos, isn't going to mix his own drink or make his own bed. When he's in space. Maybe he'll make his own bed. I've heard he's pretty fastidious, but the. That support staff, how do you make something that can be used by everybody that you know, that they're physically able to move about?

[00:28:32] And they can't, it's going to be the four weeks on four weeks off. So how are they going to survive? How are they going to not come back, with atrophy or are there problems,

[00:28:41] Heath Mills: so right there, and that's a good point. Like you said with atrophy, and this is where that translational sign comes in is that you're protecting those that go up because we know they get muscle atrophy, they get bone loss, they see bone loss on orbit.

[00:28:56] What happens with an aging popular? An Asian population on [00:29:00] earth gets atrophied. Muscle loss gets bone loss, osteoporosis. You see these traits do an aging population and you see them in a rapid fashion on orbit. So while supporting the support staff or those that are going up, understanding what those triggers are, the molecular triggers, those physiological shifts that happen to us as we age or happened because we go into this new invasive.

[00:29:27] Maybe those same countermeasures that we develop for going up will help those that are growing up. And so what are those changes in? What are those? Is it a pill? Is it therapy? Is it a combination of both? Is it something we haven't thought of yet? But that's what really drives my interest in this whole field because we get to play the, what if game, which I love as a science.

[00:29:55] But it's the one F and how's it applied game that gets everybody [00:30:00] moving forward. So you're exactly right. That atrophy, the bone loss, even vision problems. There's neural TRO maladies that start to pick up with extended stays, but really studying the physiology of that space environment or the induced physiology of the space environment.

[00:30:20] Translating it back to here now. Market excited. You can get an industry excited. You can get everybody behind you on it. This man, you cure a bone loss in space and on earth. That's a pretty big, that's a pretty good.

[00:30:34] Tim Chrisman: Oh yeah. No. And I hadn't thought about it like that because we are sending out.

[00:30:38] Function, it's the functional equivalent of a perfect specimen. And so we can then look, Hey, is this something that is just because of microgravity or is there a genetic piece or is there some some other piece that oh, okay. That also then applies to aging or to this disease or that so yeah, that's.

[00:30:58] That's probably another benefit of [00:31:00] a wider array of people going up is now you have a higher sample size and told scientists like large sample sizes. Okay. Exactly.

[00:31:08] Heath Mills: Figure, figure the end. The better you got to get the variables in there and you have to really start under strength, standing specific differences because they hit the human research program at NASA has gotten involved in this in a lot of this, obviously for the protection of the astronauts, but also with having limited sampling.

[00:31:25] Releasing of data has been a little bit more tricky because of keeping an anonymity is difficult. But if you go back and you look at some of their studies and things that are published, this is nothing that's inside information. It's all published information and go out and look. But, I there's differences between the male female responses in this age related differences in how you respond to the space environment.

[00:31:49] And so getting more people to go up increasing that end number, then you start to be able to publish some of these studies a little bit further, dive into the statistics a little bit back. [00:32:00] See if it's an oddity or a trend with the data, but we'll start seeing those more. It's great to have more ass knots on all of it right now that the space station is full.

[00:32:11] But that's what we're looking for and that's what the industry needs. Is these datasets to be more popular and come out

[00:32:18] Tim Chrisman: in the open? Yeah, no, I really liked following the Kelly twins as they were going through that and seeing even just the way they look different after that year, it was incredible.

[00:32:29] Heath Mills: Absolutely with it and. We've been fortunate that we worked with a handful of the people that were involved in that study and got to see some of those data sets. But also, a lot of it's been published, but you'll still see results each year. A new page. You said of finding something else was data mined.

[00:32:46] That enormous set of data that was produced by these guys. There's still a lot to be learned about it and having it, it was twins that was genetic gold. That's a perfect set up. Where your controls to have your [00:33:00] twin here and the other one up there.

[00:33:01] Tim Chrisman: Yeah. And I remember thinking like, man you really had to draw the short straw to stay on the ground.

[00:33:07] And then after they got back together, I'm like, nevermind.

[00:33:12] Heath Mills: And now we've seen in with longer and longer stays. Mark Vanderheit just came back from a longer stay than when Scott was up there. We're getting more extended stays on orbit and it's, it is. It is hard on the body, but it's getting less, we're understanding the countermeasures, we're understanding what's happening.

[00:33:31] But we'll see more and more astronauts do that. And I think more repeat flyers going up as we need more. As the new stations are being put online, there's going to be a greater need for astronaut and astronaut quarter expand and even a commercial astronaut core come into play and be trained. And for specialized missions, specialized flights, specialized.

[00:33:55] Tim Chrisman: Yeah, no, I'm excited to see the equivalent of the army Corps of [00:34:00] engineers for space that can handle some of that infrastructure development.

[00:34:05] Heath Mills: And a lot of companies are doing in different ways. Some are doing it purely robotic build on orbit rather than bring up fully built. How much can you assemble on orbit?

[00:34:15] How much can you put together there? What are those nuances? Having a human tended side and having humans around with it in some form or fashion is, and as we've seen from previous explorations into novel environments around here, you can go so far with robotic, but then having a human. At the wheel if needed tends to be the way to go.

[00:34:36] So we all want to go do it.

[00:34:39] Tim Chrisman: So exactly. So we're just going to send the robot first to make sure we're not going to die, which if they ever get sent in is going to be a really awkward conversation with them. Yeah.

[00:34:50] Heath Mills: Yeah. Welcome to star wars

[00:34:52] Tim Chrisman: scholar. Exactly. Yeah. I know we're coming up on time, but what is next for rhodium?

[00:34:58] What's [00:35:00] cool and exciting coming around the

[00:35:01] Heath Mills: corner. That's great. You ask that because it's, we've touched on a lot of, and you could see my excitement with certain areas and direction of conversation with it. Cause these are the things that are hot topics for us. What we've really set up here is some programs that are catching fire right now.

[00:35:16] They're going really strong. The biomanufacturing for us right now. We have a hand. Mission's already under our belt. For that side to get that going. We're also working with the drug development, drug discovery side to be able to find those new novel compounds on pharmaceutical interest.

[00:35:32] And then also with some regenerative medicine side, and we touched on that a little bit with with the organs stem from stem cells to organs, to 3d printing and those aspects. These are all areas that right now we're really going into but in part, what we're really focused on and the big differentiator between us and some of the other commercial space companies.

[00:35:53] So we are a commercial service provider to the international space station. We're one of the 14 companies that hold that designated. But [00:36:00] for us, we're less of the engineers and the metal vendors. We're more of the science and science development teams. And so we're really, we're having a lot of success right now with the project product development side, getting involved with the scientist, speaking to scientists to help develop these projects, get the.

[00:36:22] The quality assurance is built into the projects. And even to the point that we have now a trademark process called the quality industry compatible space process, accurate space process, but the quick space process, a new trademark for us is our way of building in the quality assurance. Into the overall mission so that what's produced is recognized by industries of controlled products.

[00:36:52] So they understand, okay, this is the way we do it in our lab. This is the way that the regulations happen. We recognize that let's go [00:37:00] to space, let's produce something. So it's something that we've had fun with developing. We're glad that we got it trademarked and where it can move forward on it. And open up the discussions about it a little bit.

[00:37:10] Yeah that's, what's getting us going right now. That's the exciting side. And we have some, a lot of payloads coming up for this summer. Hopefully launches go off on schedule and we're appreciating them more. They're more regular cadence now is nice.

[00:37:24] Tim Chrisman: Cool. That's that sounds really exciting.

[00:37:26] And yeah, it was great having you on here to chat today. Thank you for your time. And we definitely are going to keep tabs on what you all are doing and probably try to bring you

[00:37:35] Heath Mills: back. Absolutely looking forward to it and love to come back and update on some new things, new trends, new areas, and new successes, and always good talking with you.

[00:37:43] Yep. You too. Thanks. Take care.

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