© BRYAN SATALINO
The European Patent Office (EPO) granted a patent for CRISPR-Cas9 applications to Emmanuelle Charpentier, a co-discoverer of CRISPR and the cofounder of ERS Genomics, the University of California, and the University of Vienna. The patent has very broad claims covering the use of the technology and is directed to applications that use a modified version of the Cas9 protein.
This is the second patent issued to the company by the EPO for the gene-editing technology. The first was granted last March for the use of CRISPR across prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and organisms. The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, on the other hand, has had less luck in Europe—in January, the EPO revoked a foundational patent belonging to the institution because it did not meet the agency’s requirement to establish that its scientists were the first to use CRISPR in eukaryotes.
The latest patent “addresses yet another set of important applications of the CRISPR technology, which are becoming widely used in new drug discovery efforts and other areas of research,” says Eric Rhodes, CEO of ERS Genomics, in a press release. “This form of CRISPR is broadly enabling as it allows researchers to selectively repress or activate genes of interest to determine their function. It is the newest tool being used to discern the role of genes in disease, ultimately leading to new therapeutic applications.”
The most popular uses of this kind of CRISPR technology are inhibitory CRISPR (CRISPR-i) and activating CRISPR (CRISPR-a), according to the press release. The applications can be used to identify the roles genes play in various cellular processes and disease through a process known as single guide RNA (sgRNA) screening.
“It is gratifying to see CRISPR being deployed so broadly to help identify and understand so many new areas in biology,” Charpentier says in the press release. “The breadth of areas into which CRISPR is now being applied and the impact it is having is truly exciting.”