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Some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world are putting big money into developing a class of drugs that many hope will revolutionize the treatment of today’s most resilient diseases. RNA-interference drugs are designed to prevent the body from producing certain disease-causing proteins by selectively disrupting the mechanism that creates them in the first place: RNA.

Burnaby-based Tekmira has made itself indispensable in this field by developing a technique to deliver RNA-interference drugs into the body. Some top names in the pharmaceutical field are licensing this technology, including Anylam and Roche. The money from these contracts is helping support Tekmira’s own drug-development work. A cholesterol-controlling drug cleared its Phase-1 clinical trial in January, and a cancer drug is expected to enter Phase-1 trials this year.