Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

“Tiny RNA genes may be the biological equivalent of dark matter-all around us but almost escaping detection,” wrote Gary Ruvkun, a Harvard Medical School molecular biologist, in 2001 in the journal Science. What are these mysterious genes doing? “I suspect what we’re looking at is a very ancient method of controlling gene expression,” says Zamore.

If microRNAs are switches that decide whether stem cells become neurons or muscle, or whether cancer cells grow or die, then RNA interference is a lot more important than anyone imagined just a few years ago. “We simply stumbled upon a whole new branch of molecular biology that we didn’t know about before,” says Michigan’s Engelke.

To the optimists, these breakthroughs portend the quick development of effective drugs. And even biomedical researchers made cynical by extravagant claims for magical cures think RNAi just may be the real thing. Last year, when RNAi first worked in human cells, “everyone woke up and said, I wonder if this is the silver bullet?’” says Engelke. “And it might be. It might be.”

Companies Developing RNA Interference COMPANY PRIMARY RNAi FOCUS Alnylam Pharmaceuticals
(Cambridge, MA)
Therapeutics Benitec
(Brisbane, Australia)
Intellectual property for genomics and therapeutics Cenix BioScience
(Dresden, Germany)
Drug target identification and therapeutics for cancer Devgen
(Ghent, Belgium)
Drug target identification and therapeutics for diabetes, depression, and Parkinson’s disease Genetica
(Cambridge, MA)
Drug target identification for cancer Mirus
(Madison, WI)
Therapeutics, using long double-stranded RNA Ribopharma
(Kulmbach, Germany)
Therapeutics for cancer and hepatitis C

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Biomedicine

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me