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CRISPR Patent Battle: The Fight For Control Of Important Gene Editing Technique [VIDEO]

Update Date: Apr 15, 2017 11:36 PM EDT

In the first round of the CRISPR patent battle, the University of California wants the US Court of Appeals to reverse a decision that favors the Broad Institute in the patent dispute over the ground-breaking gene editing technique.

CRISPR patent battle revolves around technique that can revise the existing DNA of plants and animals that experts believe can offer a cure to a number of diseases. The name CRISPR refers to the DNA sequences in bacteria that can cut the DNA of a virus that it perceives as a threat. The cell then proceeds to repair its DNA when it realizes that its DNA is cut. This built-in DNA repair mechanism has been successfully tested in curing a liver disorder in mice by editing the mutated gene that caused the condition.

UC Berkeley microbiologist Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier of the University of Vienna first applied for a patent in 2012 when they discovered how CRISPR/Cas9 could be used for gene editing in simple pieces of DNA in prokaryotes. A few months later, the team of Feng Zhang from the Broad Institute paid for a fast track of a separate patent that showed CRISPR can be used for editing genes in eukaryotic cells like animal and human cells, Reuters reported.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had ruled in February that the gene editing patents that the two institutions have are distinct, despite allegations of UC Berkeley that the team from Broad Institute piggybacked on the discovery of UC Berkeley. The decision of the USPTO did not require the institutions involved in the CRISPR patent battle to agree to a settlement, Science reported.

The see-saw legal battle is expected to end in cross-licensing or even pay licensing fees to both UC Berkeley and Broad Institute which is affiliated to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Broad Institute has been awarded fourteen of the last 50 patents by the USPTO but UC Berkeley has been awarded the patents in the United Kingdom.

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