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Microgravity Opens New Window for Biotech and Nanotech Research

Houston, TX (Monday, April 20, 2009) – On April 18, the Heinlein Prize Trust, represented by Trustee Art Dula, announced that the team from the University of Texas (UT) was the winner of the first Microgravity Research Competition.

The competition, sponsored by The Heinlein Prize Trust, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), and the Rice Alliance, awarded UT’s winning entry with an opportunity to fly in microgravity on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, a $25,000 cash award, and a trip to Cape Canaveral to see their project launched into space.

“Microgravity opens a new window on biological and physical processes, enabling innovation in biotech, nanotech, and other fields,” Dula said. “Furthermore, microgravity can now be accessed by companies and universities on a commercial basis.”

The winning proposal, “Decoupling Diffusive Transport Phenomena in Microgravity” was presented by the Division of Nanomedicine of UT’s Health Science Center at Houston, led by Mauro Ferrari, PhD.

The results of the proposed experiment will have a direct impact on the development of drug delivery systems for medical applications. Dr. Ferrari’s group is focused on development of the science and technology for implantable devices for controlled, long-term drug release--research which could yield important treatment means for a variety of illnesses, including cancer.

Dr. Ferrari is a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and president of the Alliance for NanoHealth. His winning team included: Alessandro Grattoni - Senior Research Assistant, Arturas Ziemys, PhD. - Molecular Biophysics, Daniel Fine, PhD. - Electrical Engineering & Certification in Nanotechnology and Enrica De Rosa, PhD. - Chemical, Material and Production Engineering.

“We are very much looking forward to honoring the legacy of the great Robert Heinlein and his wife Virginia,” said Dr. Ferrari of winning the competition.

Researchers in biotech, nanotech, combustion, fluids, and other fields can get more information how to use microgravity at www.labflight.com.

About The Heinlein Prize Trust

Robert A. Heinlein, great American author of speculative fiction, and his wife Virginia Heinlein, founder of the Heinlein Prize Trust, believed in and advocated a human future in space where, in the words of Mr. Heinlein, “unlimited room, unlimited energy, unlimited wealth,” to the benefit every person on Earth.

The Heinlein Prize Trust continues his legacy by encouraging private space activities such as this Microgravity Research Competition. It provides financial prizes to commercial space entrepreneurs, enhances public awareness of commercial space, and uses space to inspire students about opportunities of the next frontier.

More information on Robert A. Heinlein and The Heinlein Prize trust can be found at www.heinleinprize.com.

About SpaceX

SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 vehicles, SpaceX offers highly reliable/cost-efficient launch capabilities for spacecraft insertion into any orbital altitude and inclination. Starting in 2010, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will provide Earth–to-LEO transport of pressurized and unpressurized cargo, including resupply to the International Space Station (ISS).

Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team now numbers over 650, with corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

About Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship (Rice Alliance) is Rice University’s flagship initiative devoted to the support of technology commercialization, entrepreneurship, and the launch of technology companies.

Since inception, the Rice Alliance has assisted in the launch of more than 230 technology start-ups which have raised more than $500 million in early-stage capital.

The Rice Alliance is host to the Rice Business Plan Competition, the largest and richest business plan competition in world. Thirty-six graduate schools compete for over $700,000 in prizes each year.