Caribou Biosciences, co-founded by Jennifer Doudna, receives intellectual property rights for CRISPR technology

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Caribou Biosciences, a startup co-founded by UC Berkeley researcher Jennifer Doudna, intellectual property rights for developments in CRISPR gene-editing technology Tuesday.

Compared with previous patents on CRISPR technology, this patent focuses on “a diagnostic method,” according to Jeffrey Lefstin, UC Hastings College of Law professor. In other words, other CRISPR developments typically center on genomic editing, but the technology covered by Doudna’s recent patent focuses on genomic detection, Lefstin said.

“This patent seems narrower in that it’s directed towards detecting genomic rearrangements or other aspects of chromosomal structure,” Lefstin said.

CRISPR is a naturally occurring protein system often found in bacteria that provides immunity to certain viruses, said Fuguo Jiang, a UC Berkeley postdoctoral associate with Doudna’s laboratory. Doudna’s team has studied the system’s applications to genome editing, he said.

Caribou Biosciences’ patent, however, has been granted at a time when intellectual property rights over CRISPR-Cas9 technology are still being contested between Doudna’s team and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. The Broad Institute’s Feng Zhang currently has a patent on the Cas9 technology — which can be used for genome editing in living mammalian cells — giving his research center commercial control over its development.

The United States currently operates on a “first-inventor-to-file” patent system, meaning that the first party to file for a patent receives it, regardless of whether they are the original inventor. Doudna’s party filed first for a patent on the CRISPR-Cas9 technology, but Zhang managed to get the patent by going through an expedited process, according to UC Hastings professor Robin Feldman.

“It’s not unusual to have a tangle of patents,” said UC Berkeley School of Law professor Robert Merges. “There is often a lack of clarity at the beginning stage here, and it’s really not at all unusual.”

The CRISPR-Cas9 patent is now undergoing a legal process known as an interference proceeding, in which the Patent and Trademark Office will thoroughly investigate the claims of both parties — the UC Board of Regents and the Broad Institute.

Broad Institute spokesperson Lee McGuire said in an email that the new patent issued to Caribou Biosciences “is not involved in the existing patent interference process in any way.” Feldman, however, said the patent could, in fact, influence the interference proceeding.

“Every decision from the (Patent and Trademark Office) affects the delicate dance as the two parties are circling each other,” Feldman said.

Despite the contentious legal nature of CRISPR, all applications of the breakthrough technology will continue, according to Feldman.

“In the meantime, companies are racing to find uses for this revolutionary technology,” Feldman said. “The patent system lumbers on, but innovation does not wait.”

Ericka Shin covers research and ideas. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ericka_shin.

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  • chris

    Everyone who wants to find out what is really behind genomics, molecular biology and CHANGING OUR LIFE according to ‘scientists playing gods and FORCING UPON US THEIR PRODUCTS’, please read a book, by public interest attorney, Steven Druker, who exposes ALL LIES, DECEPTION and CRIME behind the ‘science of genetics’ : “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public”, 1st Edition, March 2015.
    It started with food, accompanied by artificial climate change so that there is much less food, which now, can be replaced by CRISPs, FROM BACTERIA!!! The power and fame greedy scientists reach even further, they want to own our lives totally, by their patents!!! Who is going to stop this CRIME???

    • Mark Talmont

      Independent researcher William Engdahl also published on this

      http://www.globalresearch.ca/seeds-of-destruction-the-diabolical-world-of-genetic-manipulation/25303

      there is a youtube lecture of his

      Engdahl is one of the great truth-tellers of our time, his works on international money and geopolitics get at the realities hardly even hinted at (and sometimes overtly suppressed) by the “mainstream” media

      http://www.williamengdahl.com/

      • chris

        Thank you very much for the links! In these days one needs to listen to such extremely important facts twice, in order to grasp indeed the dimension of the destruction which goes on in our world, right now. Just in case you are not aware, the 2016 most important publication, in my opinion, was just published by Prof. Seralini and coworkers in Scientific Reports by Nature (!!!???), and is available for free at: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep37855

        Its title: “An integrated multi-omics analysis of the NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize reveals metabolism disturbances caused by the transformation process” and the overall content sends out the no 1 message: FDA/USDA/EPA are all wrong (and all presidents signing Monsanto’s orders) with their substantial equivalence of GMO maize in this case, and its NORMAL counterpart. The differences are staggering, an increase in polyamines, in particular 28-fold amount of cadaverine, which normally builds increasing part of decaying flesh, and not plants, which suppose to ‘feed the world’…
        Thank you once again for the precious talk of Mr. Engdahl, which should be no 1 entry into biological sciences in every school.., in particular Berkeley and Stanford, the ‘epi-centers’ of genetic ‘engineering’.