Space Biotech, with Mark Kugel (Yuri)


Space’s unique environment holds vast potential for biotech advancements, Mark Kugel, co-CEO and cofounder of German space biotech company Yuri, told Payload.

Why space? In this week’s Pathfinder podcast, Mark says that space changes biological systems in commercially valuable ways:

– Complex Cell Development: Enhanced growth results in superior organoids, optimizing drug testing and tissue engineering.

– Crystal Quality and Size: Space improves the formation of protein crystals, bolstering drug discovery and delivery processes.

– Human Aging Effects: Studying space’s impact on aging could illuminate early-stage drug solutions for age-driven diseases, such as cancer.

– Microbial Evolution: Space prompts unique microbial adaptations, potentially producing advanced strains and enzymes beneficial for the pharma, food, and agritech sectors.

Yuri’s core innovations:

– Space-ready Bioreactors: Yuri’s modular bioreactor system offers a novel approach for cultivating biological materials in space. Compact and transport-friendly, it’s tailored for expeditions, including the ISS.

– Ground-Based Space Simulation: Prior to committing to space-bound projects, researchers can utilize Yuri’s simulator to anticipate the effects of microgravity on their experiments.

Yuri’s partners range from pharmaceutical giants and government agencies to academic institutions. The company has worked with the likes of NASA, ESA, and GSK, the British multinational pharma and biotech company.

A sneak peek…

Before Yuri, Mark Kugel supported the digital transformation of Rolls-Royce Power Systems and built an “Airbnb for consumer products” called Usely. In today’s episode, we chat:

– Yuri’s origin story

– A history of biotech in space

– The initial focus on synbio and drug discovery

– Why space biotech is ready for commercialization

This episode is brought to you by SpiderOak, a US-based software company that builds space cybersecurity products and solutions for civilian, military, and commercial space operations. Learn more at

And much more…

• Chapters •

00:00 – Intro & SpiderOak Ad

01:42 – What does Yuri do?

02:35 – How did Mark get into bio tech and start working at Yuri?

06:06 – Is this industry starting to inflect?

09:31 – What does microgravity enable in biotech?

15:51 – Bacteria in space

18:37 – Space biotech industry now vs. the future

24:23 – Yuri’s business model

32:00 – Yuri’s team

35:05 – Synbio from the context of space

38:59 – From R&D in space to Earth at scale

41:20 – Milestones at Yuri

42:44 – Yuri’s competitors

44:07 – Why is Germany the right place to build?

46:03 – Government use case

47:10 – Yuri in 10-20 years

48:33 – Space tech that Mark is excited about

49:26 – When is Yuri’s next project launching?