Under current NASA plans, investigations in the area of biotechnology will be a significant component of the life sciences research to be conducted on the International Space Station (ISS). They encompass work on cell science and studies of the use of microgravity to grow high-quality protein crystals. Both these subdisciplines are advancing rapidly in terrestrial laboratories, fueled by federal and industrial research budgets that dwarf those of NASA's life science program. Forging strong and fruitful connections between the space investigations and laboratory-bench biologists, a continual challenge for NASA' s life sciences program, is thus of great importance to ensuring the excellence of ISS research.
This report evaluates the plan for NASA's biotechnology facility on the ISS and the scientific context that surrounds it, and makes recommendations on how the facility can be made more effective. In addition to questions about optimizing the instrumentation, the report addresses strategies for enhancing the scientific impact and improving the outreach to mainstream terrestrial biology. No major redirection of effort is called for, but collectively the specific, targeted changes recommended by the task group would have a major effect on the conduct of biotechnology research in space.