BOSTON, Aug. 6, 2020 (Genes in Space PR — Student Kristoff Misquitta (17) has won the sixth annual Genes in Space competition. Misquitta, who attends Stuyvesant High School in New York, NY, proposed to study drug metabolism on the International Space Station (ISS). His experiment will be performed by astronauts aboard the ISS next year.
Misquitta’s experiment will explore why pharmaceutical drugs are less effective when astronauts spend time in microgravity. Misquitta plans to investigate whether spaceflight-induced changes in liver function may underlie the observed changes in drug efficacy. By improving our understanding of how spaceflight affects drug metabolism, Misquitta hopes his project will aid in the design of more effective treatment plans for astronauts as they undertake long-duration missions.
Misquitta developed his proposal with guidance from his sponsor, teacher Jessica Quenzer, and his mentor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Dr. Kate Malecek. Misquitta will watch his experiment launch to space in 2021.
This announcement concludes a competitive cycle for the Genes in Space competition. Despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, 1082 students across the U.S. submitted a total of 556 applications, from which five finalists were selected. Finalists presented their ideas to a distinguished panel of scientists and educators at the Genes in Space 2020 Finalist Launchpad, a three-day online event. The Finalist Launchpad was streamed live to a worldwide audience for the first time in the contest’s history. The Launchpad concluded Thursday afternoon, as the judges announced the selection of this year’s winner.
Now in its sixth year, Genes in Space invites students in grades 7 through 12 to design biology experiments that address real-world challenges in space exploration. Previous contest winners have achieved significant milestones through their experiments, including the first use of gene editing technology in space. The competition was founded by miniPCR bio and Boeing, and is sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory, Math for America, and New England Biolabs.