UC system awarded 9th, 10th patents for CRISPR gene-editing technology

Stephen McNally/UC Berkeley/Courtesy

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued two new patents to the UC system for the use of the CRISPR gene-editing technology on July 23, bringing the university’s CRISPR patent holdings to a total of 10, according to a press release from Berkeley News.

The patents were awarded to the UC and its co-patentees — the University of Vienna and Emmanuelle Charpentier — who developed CRISPR-Cas9 with UC Berkeley professor Jennifer Doudna.

The two patents — U.S. Patent 10,358,658 and U.S. Patent 10,358,659 — pertain to the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing mechanism. According to the press release, the first patent encompasses CRISPR methods for “targeting and binding, modifying or cleaving a target DNA using single-molecule guide RNAs,” while the second patent involves CRISPR methods for “targeting and binding, modifying or cleaving a target DNA with a (mutated) Cas9 protein and a single-molecule guide RNA.”

“These patents expand UC’s patent portfolio, focusing on particular aspects of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology, namely ‘nickases’ and particular single guide RNAs,” said Eldora Ellison, lead patent strategist on CRISPR-Cas9 matters for the UC system, in an email. “Notably, these patents relate to CRISPR in any cellular or in vitro setting.”

By the end of the summer, the UC system expects to receive five more patents, raising its portfolio to 15 total patents related to CRISPR technology.

The full portfolio contains a variety of compositions and methods for gene editing and targeting within plant, animal and human cells, as well as methods for modulating transcription, according to the press release.

“In general, providing patent protection for ground-breaking innovations is an important way to recognize such innovations and promote further research and development,” Ellison said in an email. “UC … will continue to seek appropriate protection for its intellectual property.”

According to the press release, the university’s commitment to developing and applying its patents for “the betterment of humankind” has informed its open-licensing policies. These policies will allow nonprofit institutions, including academic institutions, to use CRISPR-Cas9 technology for noncommercial, educational and research purposes, according to the press release.

For its own commercial purposes, however, UC Berkeley has marketed the CRISPR-Cas9 technology through an exclusive license with the Berkeley-based Caribou Biosciences Inc. According to the press release, Caribou has sublicensed this patent family to a variety of companies worldwide, including Intellia Therapeutics Inc., which applies CRISPR-Cas9 technology to human therapeutics. Additionally, co-patentee Charpentier has licensed the technology to CRISPR Therapeutics AG and ERS Genomics Ltd.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s continued recognition of the Doudna-Charpentier team’s work is a testament to its “significance and uniqueness,” Ellison said in the press release.

“We anticipate further momentum and expansion of the portfolio as each aspect of this pioneering technology is formally recognized and receives the patent protection it deserves,” Ellison said in the press release.

Contact Annie Cheng at [email protected].