Ceasefire update on CRISPR’s USA patent battle
By Ajay V. Patil
There was a clear standoff in the CRISPR patent battle between University of California, and Broad Institute, USA. This is a short commentary on the latest decision of U.S. Court of Appeals rejecting ‘intervention claims’ of University of California over Broad Institute’s CRISPR patents.
The breakthrough platform of CRISPR-CAS9 was first introduced by Dr. Jennifer Doudna’s group from University of California, Berkeley. It has been discussed at length for its potential to impact all the therapeutic areas at once through molecular editing. However this patent do not focus on the use of nucleases other than Cas9 that could work with CRISPR. Dr. Feng Zhang and group from Broad Institute worked on such aspects of CRISPR and used other nucleases like Cpf1 to engineer and edit the genomes of human and eukaryotic cells. Both parties were awarded separate patents from USPTO. In fact future inventors who will use other nucleases in combination with CRISPR could potentially apply for more patents. Although, the buzz around this patent clash originating from ‘first to invent’ overtones is slowly settling due to considerable acknowledgement received by both parties, the struggle will continue for benefits that will come from wide commercial application interest of these patents in the biotech industry.
Notably, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit stated on Monday, September 10, 2018 that, the U.S. patent office’s decision claiming “no interference” of Broad Institute’s CRISPR patents with that of University of California, Berkeley’s was right and to be upheld. This is almost the final word on the case unless University of California decides to move in higher court. Biotech industry took a sigh of relief in the final decision as some companies invested in future growth of this technology with the support of non-exclusive licenses issued by Broad Institute for the technology. It is important to realize and protect the immediate applications of this technology in important sections of pharma and biotech research. USA has granted French cell therapy group Cellectis two patents to use CRISPR technology for the development of allogenic CART cell therapy.
Interestingly, unlike the American chapter, European side of this patent struggle is in the favor of UC Berkeley and Emmanuelle Charpentier (Doudna’s collaborator on early CRISPR technology from Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin and coauthor of key patents). It is certainly not the end of this epic patent battle in science. But we hope that these legal impediments will not hinder the improvement and application of this promising technology in future research and therapy development.
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