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CRISPR gene-editing patents disputed

18 May 2015
Appeared in BioNews 802

Patents for the gene-editing technology, CRISPR/Cas9, are the subject of a dispute between scientists at the University of California (UC), Berkeley and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts, USA.

Patent rights over the potentially highly commercially valuable gene-editing technology were awarded to Professor Feng Zhang at the Broad Institute in April 2014, giving him and his research centre commercial control over CRISPR/Cas9.

However, last month, a legal team representing UC Board of Regents' asked the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to reconsider ten patents issued to the Broad Institute.

The UC Board of Regents submitted that patent rights should have been granted to a team led by UC Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna, professor of chemistry and molecular and cell biology, who with French microbiologist, Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier, published a paper in Science in 2012 describing the technique.

Even though Professors Doudna and Charpentier were the first to file a patent claim to the technology, reports the MIT Technology Review, Professor Zhang claimed to be the first to invent the technology, submitting lab notebooks as evidence that his team ought to be awarded the rights over the patent.

Part of the legal challenge to this decision rests upon whether Professor Zhang's evidence was sufficiently related to CRISPR in order to warrant the patent, reports the New York Times.

If the USPTO accepts the request to reconsider the patent, both UC Berkeley and MIT will be asked to submit evidence about their involvement in inventing the patent.

CRISPR/Cas9 is the most precise method of gene-editing available to scientists and the rights to its patents are thought to be worth billions of dollars. However, its future application in humans is a subject of debate (see BioNews 801)

Last month, Chinese scientists controversially published findings confirming that they have begun experiments using the technique on human embryos, for the first time, attempting to eliminate the gene for beta-thalassaemia from developing embryos (reported in BioNews 779).

14 August 2017 - by Ryan Ross 
German-based company MilliporeSigma has announced that the European Patent Office intends to approve its CRISPR patent for use in eukaryotic cells...
20 February 2017 - by Ryan Ross 
The US Patent and Trademark Office has upheld the right of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to the genome-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9...
12 December 2016 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Oral arguments from lawyers acting for the Broad Institute and the University of California, Berkeley, in the high-profile CRISPR/Cas9 patent dispute have been heard in Virginia...
18 January 2016 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The CRISPR 'patent wars' have now officially kicked off in the USA, with formal proceedings to determine who controls key patents over the revolutionary genome-editing technology...
23 November 2015 - by Dr James Legg 
On 26 October this year the CRISPR/Cas patent wars truly began with the filing of European oppositions against what appears to be the first patent granted in Europe for this revolutionary gene-editing technology....
11 May 2015 - by Dr Calum MacKellar 
The short article by Robin Lovell-Badge entitled 'Editing human embryos' addressing the work of Junjiu Huang and colleagues in China on gene editing in human embryos - such as the use of the CRISPR/Cas9 system - raises a number of ethical questions....
5 May 2015 - by Dr James Heather 
US researchers have used the CRISPR/Cas9 system to target hepatitis C infection in human cells...
5 May 2015 - by Ayala Ochert 
The US National Institutes of Health has issued a firm statement that it will not fund any research involving gene-editing technologies in human embryos...
27 April 2015 - by Ayala Ochert 
Chinese scientists report the first-ever genetic modification of human embryos using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique, confirming rumours that these highly controversial experiments were underway...
11 November 2013 - by Dr Anna Cauldwell 
A molecular technique that enables any part of the human genome to be altered with extreme precision has been hailed by scientists as a breakthrough in genetics...
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