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‘Biotech fantasy’? This startup wants to kill cancer by targeting RNA with new generation of pills

| | April 29, 2019
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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Arrakis Therapeutics is named for the desert planet in the legendary “Dune” series of science-fiction novels. It’s an apt name because the Waltham, Mass., startup is trying to achieve a feat once thought to be biotech fantasy: Develop oral medicines — pills — that can target RNA, the messenger-like molecules that turn genetic instructions into proteins.

On [April 24], the company is announcing an early breakthrough. Arrakis’ screening work has identified “hits” — oral drug-like compounds — that block the RNA machinery needed to make some well-known, cancer-causing proteins long thought to be beyond the reach of drug makers.

Some of the compounds found by Arrakis work against myc, one of the first so-called oncogenes identified in the very early 1980s. Myc is believed to play a role in about 70% of all human tumors, but no one has yet figured out a way to develop a drug against it.

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To be crystal clear, Arrakis hasn’t fully solved the myc puzzle either, but it’s no longer a crazy pipe dream, said Michael Gilman, Arrakis’ CEO.

“I think we’ve achieved escape velocity,” he said, leaning on a rocket ship analogy that befits a biotech with a sci-fi inspired name.

Read full, original post: A biotech startup’s lofty goal: Kill cancer with pills that target RNA instead of proteins

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