miniPCR and partners help launch Genes in Space teen experiment to space

Julian Rubinfien,16, winner of the 2016 Genes in Space competition, watched his DNA experiments launch to the International Space Station from Kennedy Space Center, Fla, on cargo resupply mission OA-7.

Watch Julian’s emotions when the rocket launches and hear miniPCR co-founder Sebastian Kraves explain the significance of Julian’s achievement.

miniPCR is a proud founding partner of the Genes in Space™ STEM contest.


Genes in Space™ started in 2015 as a collaboration between Boeing and miniPCR with the goal of inspiring young minds to solve real-world problems in the biological and physical sciences. Before we knew it, generous partners (CASIS, Math for America, New England Biolabs) and sponsor FedEx joined us to support, enable, and grow this unique program.

Julian’s experiments investigate the genetic underpinnings of accelerated aging in space. The first experiment will test if telomeric DNA can be copied in space. Telomeres are protective caps on the ends of chromosomes and are known to shorten in response to stress and aging. Julian’s experiment will examine how measuring telomeres in space could enable health monitoring of astronauts during long-term missions. The second experiment will test whether or not “on-the-spot” DNA-based diagnostic tests can be conducted on the ISS and will be the first of its kind in space.

Both experiments will use portable miniPCR™ DNA analysis technology. The ISS National Lab is a platform for cutting edge research and technology development that enables future deep space exploration. Julian was a student of MƒA Master Teacher Jessica Quenzer, who served as his mentor throughout the Genes in Space application process.

Genes in Space is a national STEM contest that challenges students in grades seven through 12 to design DNA analysis experiments using the ISS National Lab (managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS.) The competition is a partnership between miniPCR, Math for America, CASIS, New England Biolabs®, Inc, Boeing and is sponsored by FedEx.

Video courtesy of Boeing.