Roche's Rush

How the Swiss firm is redefining the R&D crapshoot in its quest to land the next pharmaceutical breakthrough

Chad Robert Springer/White Door Photo for TIME

Roche staff in Nutley, N.J., left, target cells with high-powered tools including, from top, microscopes, monitors and gene panels

In a nondescript building in Nutley, N.J., nearly 1 million tiny glass plates most likely hold the future of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche. On each sits one of some 920,000 drug compounds Roche owns, which the researchers at its U.S. headquarters spend their day mixing and matching in the hope of finding the next cure for diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or even cancer. Until now, however, 9 out of 10 times these searches have yielded only dead ends.

Those are odds most of corporate America would blanch at. But for drugmakers, high-priced gambles have long been the reality of research and development....

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