European Patent Office intends to grant UC broad patent for CRISPR technology

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The European Patent Office, or EPO, announced its intentions to grant the University of California a broad patent for CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology in late March.

The intended patent will encompass all cell types under the CRISPR-Cas9 technology. The United States Patent and Trademark Office granted a general patent to the University of California for the technology, and also granted a patent to the Broad Institute for application to eukaryotic cells.

If the EPO formally grants this patent to the University of California, the 38 European countries that the office covers will have to go to UC Berkeley for the licensing of the CRISPR technology, according to campus spokesperson Robert Sanders.

“Other countries around the world look to the EPO, and this may lead to granting our patent applications in other countries as well,” Sanders said.

The EPO’s intended patent will not, however, override the patent in the United States because of the respective territory in which they were issued. Patents are only legally effective in the region that they are administered, according to Rainer Osterwalder, EPO’s director of media relations.

In February, the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board determined that there was no interference between the usage of this technology by the Broad Institute and the University of California, which allowed both institutions to maintain their patents.

Campus professor Jennifer Doudna, Max Planck Institute director Emanuelle Charpentier and their team invented CRISPR-Cas9 technology. UC Berkeley first applied for a patent for the technology in 2012. The technology allows for the editing of genes and can cut targeted DNA sequences.

According to Edward Penhoet, campus associate dean of biology, the technology has high potential commercial value because of its many potential applications, making the patent important.

“There are a lot of ways to cure many different diseases. It has the potential to cure,” Penhoet said. “It can bring in substantial revenue to the campus. It’s important to all of us that Jennifer gets the recognition that she richly deserves.”

In response to the EPO’s announcement of the intended patent, the Broad Institute released a public statement regarding its own usage of CRISPR technology. The institute said in the statement that it expects a wide range of oppositions and adjustments to follow the intended patent, and for many patents to be administered to different institutions in the future. They added that they will continue to apply the technology to benefit the public.

“Consistent with our founding principle to propel the understanding and treatment of disease, Broad Institute and our partner organizations will continue to work to disseminate and share CRISPR genome editing tools to maximize public benefit,” read the statement.

Contact Sunny Tsai at [email protected].