UC Berkeley announces patenting of gene-editing technology CRISPR

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UC Berkeley announced Tuesday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted a patent to CRISPR, a gene-editing technology.

The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology was discovered in 2012 by campus professor of chemistry, molecular biology and biochemistry Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology.

“Patents for the use of CRISPR-Cas9 for gene editing in all types of cells have already been issued to the Doudna-Charpentier team by the European Patent Office (representing more than 30 countries), the United Kingdom, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and other countries,” according to an emailed statement from Edward Penhoet, a campus professor emeritus of public health.

According to Penhoet, the patent describes a gene-editing technology using RNA guides added to the Cas9 protein that are effective at “homing in on” and editing genes, which highlights Cas9’s ability to gene edit DNA within human and animal cells.

The patent explains how the technology can be used in two ways, including one in which DNA coding for the Cas9 protein and the RNA allows the Cas9 protein and RNA to be created and added together inside the cell. The other way is when the Cas9 is used as a ribonucleoprotein, which is Cas9 protein complexed with RNA, according to Berkeley News.

The UC system has promoted the commercialization of this gene-editing technology all over the world using an “exclusive license with Caribou Biosciences, Inc. of Berkeley” which has sublicensed to many corporations worldwide such as Intellia Therapeutics, according to Berkeley News.

The UC allows nonprofit and academic institutions to use the technology for education and research. Charpentier also licensed the technology to CRISPR Therapeutics AG and ERS Genomics, according to Berkeley News.

“It is important news because it increases our understanding of the CRISPR technology and expands its usefulness in the development of new therapies to treat and cure genetic diseases and strategies to improve food security,” Penhoet’s statement said in an email.

Yao Huang is the lead research and ideas reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Yhoneplus.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that CRISPR was discovered by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier. In fact, Doudna and Charpentier discovered the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology.