TS Picks: CRISPR Patent Edition

A challenge to the first CRISPR patent just got teeth.

By Kerry Grens | January 5, 2016

USPTO’s James Madison building in Alexandria, VirginiaWIKIMEDIA, COOLCAESARCRISPR/Cas developer Feng Zhang and his institutions, MIT and the Broad Institute, earned the first patent covering the gene-editing technology. But a similar patent request was filed months earlier than Zhang’s by CRISPR pioneers Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, and the duo’s attorneys are challenging the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) decision.

Last month (December 21), the Patent Trial and Appeals Board agreed to look into the dispute via an “interference proceeding.” New York Law School’s Jacob Sherkow wrote on the Law and Biosciences Blog: “This has the potential to decide who owns the core CRISPR intellectual property, possibly stripping Zhang of his near-dozen patents, and shaking up hundreds of millions dollars of investment in their respective companies. . . . Needless to say, this is a monumental event for patent attorneys, molecular biologists, the PTO, and the world.”

  • Xconomy this week (January 4) reviewed the USPTO’s interference proceeding process, which is only granted when the appealing camp has made a compelling argument. “I’ve never seen an examiner recommend interference and not have it declared,” patent attorney Muna Abu-Shaar of Biospark Intellectual Property Law in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told Xconomy.
  • Meanwhile, Wired examined the implications of winning a CRISPR patent: “If the interference proceeding negates the Broad’s patent, that could spell the end of Editas (and all that capital!) while clearing the way for several other companies that have licensed the competing, Berkeley-originated patent. A lot is at stake.”
  • And speaking of Editas, The Boston Globe reported that the company this week (January 4) filed for its initial public offering, starting with $100 million in stock.

Correction (January 6): The original version of this post added to the Wired quote that Editas was founded by Doudna, when in fact she was one of five cofounders, including Feng Zhang, George Church, J. Keith Joung, and David Liu. The Scientist regrets the error.

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Avatar of: zackcc1


Posts: 7

January 5, 2016

This is such a big mistake, and these researchers should know better if what there goal is really to help humanity, rather than just line their pocketbooks.  CRIPR is the most promising technology for the treatment of genetic diseases since "ever", and it would be a shame if the rights were continually bought and sold in an endless cycle of unfruitful speculation, like some piece of art or property lot.  CRISPR belongs to a large number of scientist and the publiic for funding their research.  If BigPharma gets control of this, we can expect overpriced products, and crippled research and innovation which could last decades, or worse if all that money they make begins to influence lawmakers and extend patents even further.  This is precisely what happened with MRI technology which "could" have saved many millions of cancer victims if it had been allowed to undergo open source development for the last 4 decades.  Insteaad we have bulky machines which are too expensive to be used for screenings to pick up early cancers, the vast majority of which are treatable and cureble in this stage.  Greed is does no good and it is in fact fraudulent and theft of public goods.  The government really should step in at this point and just buy the patents and make it open source for rapid development.

Avatar of: smokingv


Posts: 1

January 6, 2016


If you feel the need to interject an explanatory phrase into a direct quote from another publication, at least check that it does indeed correctly explain the situation.   Editas was founded by Zhang and his institutions, MIT and the Broad Institute..

Avatar of: KerryGrens


Posts: 832

Replied to a comment from smokingv made on January 6, 2016

January 6, 2016

Thanks for pointing out my mistake, I've corrected it.


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