Mangalorean Dr Amor Menezes & Team from UF on a Momentous Space Bio-manufacturing Mission

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Mangalorean Dr Amor Menezes and Team from the University of Florida (UF), USA on a Momentous Space Bio-manufacturing Mission. The Team is spearheading the DARPA mission to pioneer crucial bio-manufacturing in space

Mangaluru: Dr Amor Menezes with family roots in Mangaluru is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, an affiliate of the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, an affiliate of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and a member of the Institute for Cell & Tissue Science and Engineering at the University of Florida, USA. His group applies dynamical systems theory and control engineering methods in the fields of systems biology and synthetic biology.

Dr Amor’s dad Arunlal Menezes having completed his graduation at St Aloysius College, Mangaluru has worked in a renowned Shipping firm in Canada, and his mom, Ms Asha Menezes had completed her studies at St Agnes, and was a teacher in Canada, and his sister Dr Amber Menezes, is a General Surgeon, also in Canada. Dr Amor is married to Dr Faye Pais, (Daughter of well-known lawyer L C Pais in Mangaluru) who is an MD, Pulmonology and Critical Care, University of  Florida, USA. Dr Amor completed postdoctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley, USA and the University of Michigan, USA in quantitative bio-sciences and automotive system modelling, respectively. His aerospace engineering graduate degrees are from the University of Michigan, USA. His mechanical engineering undergraduate degree is from the University of Waterloo, Canada.


Dr Amor’s teaching interests are in Modeling and Control of Biological Systems, Control of Linear and Nonlinear Systems, and Aircraft and Spacecraft Performance and Control, while his Research interests are in Biological Control Systems, Biosecurity, Cellular Engineering, Nonlinear Control, Synthetic Biology, and Systems Biology. He is the Science Principal Investigator of the Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space, a NASA Space Technology Research Institute in biomanufacturing for deep space exploration. He is a Senior Member of IEEE, and a Member of AIAA, ASME, and BMES. He is an Associate Editor for the annual IEEE Conference on Control Technology and Applications. He was a 2015 Emerging Leader in Biosecurity and a 2015 fellow of the Synthetic Biology Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program.

Graduate students in the CYBORGS Lab. Front: Amanda Schick, Anya Volter & Angela Lalovic
Back : Jithran Ekanayake, Dr. Amor Menezes, & Hannah Roberts

As per sources from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering of the University of Florida, to create a resilient supply chain for a sustained presence in space, researchers at the University of Florida (UF) are bioengineering microbes for experimentation on the International Space Station (ISS) they hope will reliably produce biopolymers, nutraceuticals, and antibiotics in variable gravity conditions.

Dr Amor Menezes Family- L-R : Dr. Faye ‘Menezes’ Pais (Amor’s Wife), Dr Amor Menezes; Arunlal Menezes (Dad), Ms Asha Menezes (Mom) and Dr Amber Menezes (Sister)

The space environment is uniquely challenging, with vastly different levels of gravity, radiation, temperature, and pressure, all creating stress on Earth-based biological processes and inhibiting the outputs of microbial bio-manufacturing. By providing a better understanding of how microbes adapt and function in the stresses of space, this investigation will support measures to maintain and enhance bio-manufacturing output in an environment that must be self-sustaining — where space missions must have everything they need to manufacture necessities.

Among the inspirational outcomes of the project is reducing the economic and energy costs to transport equipment and consumables from Earth to the Moon and Mars. Payload expenses for the most recent launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy spacecraft showed a cost of $5,000/kg for low Earth orbit and $18,800/kg for a payload destined for Mars. Led by Amor Menezes, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) at UF, the Bio-manufacturing: Survival, Utility and Reliability beyond Earth (B-SURE) team is funded through a $2.8 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for bio-manufacturing research in space that includes at least one flight to the ISS for testing.

Joining Dr Menezes’ team are UF colleagues Sean Niemi, PhD, an instructional assistant professor of MAE in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, and Jamie Foster, PhD, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Cell Science at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), as well as personnel from the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Delaware, NASA Ames Research Center, and Rhodium Scientific, a mission integrator who translates lab protocols for spaceflight operations and who has facilities at NASA Kennedy Space Center.

Rhodium Scientific had sent the flight payload on SpaceX CRS-27 aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 spacecraft, which was launched at 8:30 pm on 14 March 2023. The B-SURE team had to extrapolate their space data over six to nine months and re-engineer the microbes for better-performing bio-manufacturing outcomes. Upgraded microbes were sent back to the ISS on a subsequent mission.

Dr Menezes’ team focused on the gravitational aspect of space bio-manufacturing. Using simulators, his lab has observed gravity’s effect on bio-production efficacy. Data from the space environment will also give his team insight into engineering more accurate simulators.“Control theory is a really powerful tool, and its use for biology in space is also something that is very science fiction-y,” Menezes said of the possibilities that the B-SURE research could unlock. “You can bring science fiction movies to reality, and that’s just one thing that I think is cool, really fanciful.”


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