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Broad Institute scientist prevails in epic patent fight over CRISPRqrcode

Favorites Print Feb. 16, 2017
Dr. Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute

The Broad Institute, a biological and genomic research center affiliated with MIT and Harvard, will keep valuable patents on a revolutionary gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, a U.S. patent agency ruled on Wednesday.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board in Alexandria, Virginia, rejected a claim by a rival team, associated with the University of California at Berkeley and University of Vienna in Austria, that they invented the technology first.

The patent rights could be worth billions of dollars, as the technology could revolutionize treatment of genetic diseases, crop engineering and other areas.

Shares of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Editas Medicine Inc , a biotechnology firm that licenses CRISPR-related intellectual property from Broad, were up 30 percent in afternoon trading. Shares of Intellia Therapeutics Inc, which has a licensing deal with the University of California, were down more than 13 percent.

Intellia said in a statement that it would work on legal strategy with the University of California, but that it was too early to comment on next steps.

The University of California said that it would consider an appeal of the ruling, which would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.

Editas Chief Executive Officer Katrine Bosley said the company was pleased with the decision.

CRISPR works as a type of molecular scissors that can trim away unwanted pieces of genetic material, and replace them with new ones. Easier to use than older techniques, it has quickly become the preferred method of gene editing in research labs.

In 2012, a research team led by Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna and Vienna’s Emmanuelle Charpentier was first to apply for a CRISPR patent.

Jennifer Doudna, a CRISPR pioneer, photographed in the Li Ka Shing Center on the Campus of the University of California at Berkeley in 2016

A team at Broad, led by MIT’s Feng Zhang, applied for a patent months later, opting for a fast-track review process. It became the first to obtain a CRISPR patent in 2014, and has since obtained additional patents.

In April 2015, Berkeley petitioned the patent agency to launch a so-called interference proceeding, claiming the Harvard-MIT patents covered the same invention as its earlier application.

Broad has countered that its patent represented the real breakthrough because it described the use of CRISPR in so-called eukaryotic cells, which include plant and animal cells, for the first time.

The patent board’s decision on Wednesday said there was “no interference in fact” between Berkeley’s patent application and Broad’s patents, meaning Berkeley’s application could still be granted. However, major commercial applications of CRISPR are likely to be in eukaryotic cells.

In addition to Editas – which was co-founded by Zhang and Doudna, who has since left the company – Broad has licensed its CRISPR technology to Monsanto Co and General Electric Co’s medical technology subsidiary GE Healthcare.

Favorites Print
Source: Reuters


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