Talented researcher selected for leader programme to send research into space

Friday, 07 July 2023

An astropharmacy researcher from the University of Nottingham has been selected to be part of the Emerging Space Leader Award Programme to share and grow her research into how medicine can be made to work effectively in space.

Li Shean Toh, pharmacist and Assistant Professor specialises in astropharmacy. Her research covers pharmacology, medication safety, osteoporosis, and pharmacy services in space. She utilizes research evidence to inform and shape practice and policy for astronauts and space travellers of the future.

The Emerging Space Leader Award Programme is run by the International Aeronautical Federation, the world’s leading space advocacy body. The programme enables 30 students and young professionals to participate in the International Astronautical Congress. It also allows access to UN/IAF workshops and Space Generations Congress.

Li Shean comments: “I’m delighted to be joining this year’s Emerging Space Leader Award Programme. Healthcare in space presents unique challenges but also offers an opportunity to address the shortcomings of current healthcare practices on Earth, including equity. International cooperation plays a crucial role in addressing these challenges and fostering collaborative research and knowledge sharing among space agencies, commercial companies and medical professionals worldwide. By treating space as a beacon of hope, innovative approaches and technologies can be developed to surpass the limitations of traditional healthcare.

Through international collaboration, we have the opportunity to build a brighter future for healthcare that is more inclusive, technologically advanced, and focused on improving patient outcomes globally.
Li Shean Toh, School of Pharmacy

Astropharmacy is a research area that aims to address the question of how pioneers and explorers are to receive effective medical and pharmaceutical care. Li Shean and colleagues received funding from ESA to set up the Pharmacological Countermeasure Topical Team to progress medication related gaps in the space sector setting the agenda for the future direction. We hope to influence policies, industry, research, education, community engagement and governance of medication in the space environment.

Their latest project has been to explore the development of a medical kit for use in simulated space mission. The study explores the experiences and needs of medication management with regards to the medication kit in space analogue missions to transfer these learnings to space exploration.

Li Shean adds: “This experience will shape the next steps for setting the agenda for medication related issues in the space environments. The aim is to input the learnings of the congress into the ESA Pharmacological Topical Team agenda.”

Li Shean is at the forefront of research into astropharmacy, which is a relatively new area of interest but is gathering pace as the prospect of space tourism becomes a reality. Understanding how medication will work in space for extended periods of time is vital for safe space travel, but also it may present new ways to manage medication effectively here on earth. We hope Li Shean’s time at the International Astronautical Congress will bring further understanding and help accelerate this research further.
Professor Phil Williams, School of Pharmacy

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Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

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About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

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