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43North winning idea heading to space

Posted at 6:46 PM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-06 18:54:57-05

Last October 2016, a start-up company called Oncolinx won the 43North competition with a new idea of using "Antibody Drug Conjugates" (ADC's) to attack cancer.  Oncolinx took home the million dollar prize and is now sending an experiment to the International Space Station to test the idea in zero gravity.

The launch is scheduled for March 19th.

43North is part of the Buffalo Billion initiative created by Governor Cuomo and supported by the New York State Power Authority.

However, being a start-up company, Oncolinx was able to use 43North's incubator space on Ellicott Street, Buffalo.

The University at Buffalo's School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences also provided substantial assistance, including making the molecules that will be flown into space.

"Yeah, it was pretty cool and I was pretty excited when they told me," said David Bussing, a second-year Ph.D student at UB who helped make the molecules.

Here on earth, cancer in Petri dishes grows in 2-D, but in space, those cancer cells will grow in a 3-D shape which is much closer to how tumors grow in the body.

The ADC's will be used to treat lung cancer cells in space.  The results will be frozen and brought back to earth in the future for analysis.

As part of winning the 43North Competition, Oncolinx agrees to work to expand in the Buffalo area.  Dr. Dhaval Shah, Ph.D. from UB said the company is now looking to create fellowships in the School of Pharmacy to attract researchers to work on the new cancer fighting drug.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his reports.