Berkeley gets CRISPR Patent

Patent rights to CRISPR, the gene-editing technique could eventually be worth billions of dollars, because the technology could revolutionize the treatment of diseases, crop engineering and other areas.

Background

CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is a family of DNA sequences found within the genomes of prokaryotic organisms such as bacteria and archaea. These sequences are derived from DNA fragments from viruses that have previously infected the prokaryote and are used to detect and destroy DNA from similar viruses during subsequent infections.

A simple version of the CRISPR/Cas system, CRISPR/Cas9, has been modified to edit genomes. By delivering the Cas9 nuclease complexed with a synthetic guide RNA (gRNA) into a cell, the cell's genome can be cut at a desired location, allowing existing genes to be removed and/or new ones added.

Analysis

The University of California, Berkeley will soon be granted a potentially valuable patent on the revolutionary gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, according to a document filed by the U.S. patent office.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision to grant the patent could further fuel a long-running rivalry between the university and the Broad Institute, a biological and genomic research center affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University that also holds patents on CRISPR.

CRISPR works as a molecular scissors that can trim away unwanted pieces of genetic material and replace them with new ones. Easier to use than older techniques, it has quickly become a preferred method of gene editing in research labs.

The new patent decision “does not affect the CRISPR patent estate held by Broad, MIT, and Harvard in any way,” Broad Institute spokesman David Cameron said in statement.

Assessment

Our assessment is that the decision to grant a patent on something as powerful as CRISPR will have a far-reaching impact on the scientific community. We believe that UC Berkeley could potentially make billions if the patent is granted without any reservations. However, we would advocate that a tool like CRISPR should be open to all research projects, especially in the academic world.