NIH Director Francis Collins and NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins to Keynote Joint Session at ISSRDC

Press Release From: Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The 2021 International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) will include a virtual keynote session that will feature two key science figures: National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins and NASA astronaut Dr. Kate Rubins. The virtual keynote session, taking place the morning of August 3, 2021, will touch on the important research and development being done on the International Space Station (ISS), the value that research brings to humanity and to our nation, and potential opportunities for future innovation and discovery. This will be the 10th annual ISSRDC event that connects commercial entities, academic institutions, and government agencies in order to foster new collaborations, breakthroughs, and discoveries onboard our nation’s only orbiting laboratory. 

When Dr. Rubins was onboard the ISS as part of the Expedition 64 crew earlier this year, she participated in a live downlink transmissionwith Dr. Collins. The conversation focused on the life sciences research being conducted in low Earth orbit to improve patient care on Earth and to enable long-duration spaceflight missions that will bring the first woman and first person of color to the Moon through NASA’s Artemis program.

During their downlink discussion, Dr. Collins and Dr. Rubins discussed the Tissue Chips in Space initiative supported by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory and funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, one of the 27 centers and branches of NIH. Tissue chips contain human cells grown on an artificial scaffold to model the structure and function of human tissue, and research using tissue chips in space could help accelerate development of therapeutics for patient care. While on station, Dr. Rubins worked on a tissue chip investigation from Stanford University that evaluated whether engineered heart tissue in microgravity displays characteristics similar to ischemic cardiomyopathy (a condition in which heart muscles are weakened due to heart attack or disease), for use in screening new potential drugs to treat heart conditions on Earth. In the virtual keynote session at ISSRDC, Dr. Collins and Dr. Rubins will expand on their previous conversation.

“The ISS Research and Development Conference is incredibly humbled and honored to have Dr. Collins join us for a discussion on the impacts of station research,” said Dr. Michael Roberts, interim chief scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), manager of the ISS National Lab. “Additionally, to have NASA astronaut Dr. Kate Rubins participate—knowing the significant role she played in supporting research and development on the orbiting laboratory—will only further the importance of the discussion, which will be a fantastic way to kickstart this annual gathering that highlights the value of space-based inquiry.”

ISSRDC, which will take place virtually August 3-5, is hosted by CASIS, NASA, and the American Astronautical Society. The conference is free to attend, although registration is required. To learn more about ISSRDC, including viewing the full agenda and speakers, and to register, please visit

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About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under cooperative agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit

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