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Mass. startups to test inventions on space station

Three Massachusetts companies were awarded $600,000 to test their medical technologies in low gravity aboard the International Space Station.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, a nonprofit that oversees scientific research aboard the International Space Station, said Thursday that three participants in the startup accelerator MassChallenge would share a special award to test their inventions in space. The companies — SQZ Biotech, Novopyxis, and CamMed LLC, all based in the Boston area — each received $200,000 to prepare their experiments for the trip to space, scheduled to take place in 2016.

“We need to make something that’s easy for astronauts to use that accomplishes what we want,” said Harrison Bralower, the vice president of engineering at SQZ Biotech. “We also have to create something that can survive a rocket launch.”

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SQZ produces a chip that uses channels narrower than a human hair to compress cells. When they emerge from the channels, the cells rebound so much that small pores open in their exterior membranes, which allow drugs, DNA, or any other desired substance to enter them. Novopyxis will be testing a device called the Droplette that allows for large-molecule drugs to be delivered through people’s skin, and CamMed will test a way to improve its Evopump device, a bandage-size drug delivery pump.

The award was cosponsored by Boeing and the center, which manages the US government’s lab on the International Space Station. Cindy Bouthot, the center’s director of business development, said the winners were selected because testing their technologies in low gravity could have some impact on Earth. “CASIS is managing the ISS as a national lab for terrestrial benefit,” Bouthot said.

Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.