UC receives 3rd CRISPR patent after 4 years of litigation

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After four years of litigation battles, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, has finally approved a third CRISPR patent for the UC system.

CRISPR-Cas9, co-developed by UC Berkeley professor of biochemistry and molecular biology Jennifer Doudna, is a revolutionary gene-editing technology derived from a bacterial genome. The UC system is not the sole entity to benefit from this patent, as it is also in collaboration with Emmanuelle Charpentier of Umeå University and Krzysztof Chylinski of the University of Vienna.

“We are excited to have been granted a patent recognizing the Doudna and Charpentier contributions to CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing, and look forward to future successful patents that expand upon this technology and its applications,” said Doudna Lab project manager Meredith Triplet.

Litigation for the patent began in January 2015, according to UC lead CRISPR patent strategist Eldora Ellison, who said that litigation was necessary due to crossover between the UC’s patent and a Broad Institute patent application. The Broad Institute is a biomedical research facility that belongs to Harvard and MIT.

“It’s always been the university’s view that it should be entitled to a patent on the subject matter; there was simply a question of whether there needed to be interference proceedings with the Broad Institute,” Ellison said.

Ellison added that the three patents are not limited to use in eukaryotes and allow CRISPR use in both cellular and noncellular environments, such as laboratories. The three patents differ in the specific guide RNAs directing the Cas9 protein to the target nucleotide sequence, according to Ellison.

This “beautiful technology” is different from past CRISPR systems because the newer system better specifies where to cut sequences, which distinguishes it from older CRISPR technologies that were less specific, added Ellison.

The approval of the patent will not affect current lab activity as all technology in the CRISPR patents are allowed to be used in labs, said Robert Sanders, campus manager of science communications.

Though CRISPR technology has been available for research purposes in the past, the new patent will have implications for commercial use, according to Ellison.

“This is important technology,” he said. “The university is committed to ensuring that this technology can be used for the betterment of humankind.”

CRISPR-Cas9 has important implications for the future — even as this patent is finalized over the next eight weeks, others are in the works.

“It’s great that we got the patent that we applied for six years ago,” Sanders said. “There are many more patents that we have for the CRISPR technology, so we hope that we will continue to get more patents for out portfolio.”

Contact Marlena Tavernier-Fine at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MarlenaTF_DC ‏.