The Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard will take part in an initiative to simplify licensing CRISPR genome editing technology to other organisations and institutions.
If all the major CRISPR patent holders join, the pool could facilitate the licensing of CRISPR patents to parties interested in using the technology, making it a 'one-stop-shop'. Licensees would no longer need to pursue agreements with multiple entities, and could focus on using the technology to advance research.
'We strongly support making CRISPR technology broadly available,' said Mr Issi Rozen, Chief Business Officer of the Broad Institute in a statement. 'We look forward to working with others to ensure the widest possible access to all key CRISPR intellectual property.'
The pool will be run by MPEG LA LLC, a leading provider of one-stop licences for standards and other technology platforms. 'Pooling the foundational CRISPR patent rights under a single nonexclusive, cost-effective, transparent licence will allow the market to focus on the creation of new products and therapies that accelerate and expand CRISPR's deployment,' said Mr Larry Horn, MPEG LA's President and Chief Executive Officer.
In March 2017, Mr Horn argued in a letter published in Science that such a pool would aid in commercialisation of CRISPR technology by 'providing developers easy access to a package of essential patent rights in a single licensing transaction.'
According to the Broad Institute 'the US Patent and Trademark Office has issued more than 60 patents with claims to CRISPR and/or Cas9 to approximately 100 inventors from 18 applicant organisations... On the other hand, the European Patent Office has issued more than 20 such patents to approximately 30 inventors from about ten applicant institutions.'
The success of the initiative will likely depend on whether the other patent holders join, and it is not clear what other institutions may have applied. In particular the UC Berkeley group – which includes the University of Vienna, and Professors Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier's companies Intellia and CRISPR Therapeutics – owns the major patents in Europe and China, and if they do not participate the pool cannot function as a one-stop solution.
Another potential stumbling block is that patent holders still have to discuss and agree upon the pool terms, which may be difficult as the Broad and UC Berkeley groups continue to dispute one another's patents in US and global courts (see BioNews 898).
'We hope many other patent holders will consider joining the patent pool to ensure access to CRISPR tools are open and available,' said Mr Rozen. 'We believe we all share a goal of making sure that CRISPR can have the greatest possible impact to transform medicine and improve lives.' he added.