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Last year, Arrakis Therapeutics announced early but important progress toward a drug-development goal long thought to be a biotech fantasy: the creation of oral medicines that can target RNA, the messenger-like molecules that turn genetic instructions into proteins.

On Wednesday, the Waltham, Mass.-based startup checked another box on its list of milestones: signing on its first strategic partner, the Swiss pharma giant Roche, which will pay $190 million upfront to license Arrakis’ technology. The two companies will work together to develop a new class of pills with potential to block the RNA machinery that makes disease-causing proteins.


“In Roche, we have found a kindred spirit. They took a strong interest in what we’re doing from the start and really believe in this approach. They’re not dabblers,” said Arrakis chief executive officer Michael Gilman.

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