The Best of Both Worlds

How Roche’s RNA Hub is tackling the challenges of nucleic acid therapeutics

The RNA Hub in Basel includes researchers in every field and at every stage of drug development who are needed to deliver new medicines to patients — from RNA experts to those who specialise in pharmacokinetics, toxicology, or a particular therapeutic area.

Peter works on designing and analysing RNA molecules that one day might become medicines. Rather than focusing on one molecule or disease, the RNA Hub can cast a wide exploratory net and address broader, foundational questions about this new therapeutic approach.

Right now, Peter and his colleagues are both working on individual therapeutic projects as well as building wider platforms to overcome cross-cutting technical challenges. For example, how can we better deliver nucleic acid therapeutics to the central nervous system, or other tissues throughout the body? And how do we optimise the medicines’ stability and activity once they reach their target tissue, to reduce how often a dose is needed? These are questions that drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics project leader Erich Koller investigates with his collaborators in the RNA Hub.

We also need to better understand the impacts, good and bad, of nucleic acid therapeutics on the body. That is why the RNA Hub also engages scientists like Laura Polledo who work in a team within the hub that focuses on the mechanism of these molecules in living models.

“It challenges us and supports us at the same time, and is a great opportunity for Roche to develop these compounds further,” Laura says.

The RNA Hub team not only collaborates on a daily basis to explore and develop these new therapeutic approaches, but also gathers for weekly lunches to learn more about what everyone is working on. “It’s very cosy, and a good atmosphere for exchange,” Laura adds.

As elsewhere at Roche, the patients who could benefit from nucleic acid therapeutics are at the centre of the RNA Hub. “We are focused on the patients we can make this approach therapeutic for,” Peter says. “We are opportunistically exploring many areas, and allowing for opportunities to emerge by bringing different expertise together.”

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