Rocket launches into space concept
chathuporn /
2022-03-04 publication

Shipping to space – lab included

The startup Yuri wants to democratize zero-gravity applications by offering a fast, cost-effective way to bring biological experiments into space. Co-founder Mark Kugel explains what awaits cell cultures on their trip into orbit.  

VDE dialog - the technology magazine

Interview with Mark Kugel

Photo from Mark Kugel
Yuri GmbH 

Mr. Kugel, what exactly does Yuri do?

We’re kind of a shipping service that also includes a laboratory. With our all-inclusive package, scientists can harness the advantages of weightlessness for their biological research. We’re also developing small bioreactors with which we can bring cell cultures or other biological experiments into space for our customers – mainly to the International Space Station. We organize the whole process, as well, including all the paperwork and all communications with NASA or the other rocket launch organizations. And we do it all for five to ten times cheaper than usual.

How do you manage that?

We’ve modularized the bioreactors. They come in standardized ten-centimeter cubes that can be reused. This makes us not only cheaper, but faster as well. As a researcher, you might wait two to five years to have an experiment launched into space. We accomplish this in a much shorter time; our current record is less than six months.

How did you come up with this business idea?

My two co-founders, Maria Birlem and Christian Bruderek, spent many years heading projects in systems engineering at Airbus. They made new developments exactly like this on behalf of ESA or NASA and started wondering, why do we have to develop highly similar systems over and over? Can’t we make this smarter by reusing things? I’m an industrial engineer myself, and I’d already founded startups before. In other words, I see things through the lens of entrepreneurship, too. We complement each other well in that way.

What’s next on the agenda at Yuri?
We’re now going into research ourselves. In the future, we also want to develop and produce our own biotech products in space, or to advance commercial research in partnership with pharmaceutical companies. We’re currently building a corresponding team and recently picked up a world-class chief scientific officer.

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