If you enjoyed “Bring me a gene” by Tim Blais and wished your friends “A Merry Little CRISPR”, be sure not to miss “The Patent” by Rob Nichols. It’s a parody of “Obedient Servant” from the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, “based on the actual events of the CRISPR Revolutionary War”. For an IP update, please see this press-release announcing the 20th CRISPR patent awarded to UC Berkeley.
According to IPStudies, over 12,000 CRISPR patent applications have been filed worldwide, falling into about 4,600 patent families. The number of issued patents is still impressive, more than 740 to date. More than half have been awarded in just two countries. Can you guess where?
China and the US, of course. Players dominating the patent landscape are the University of California and the Broad Institute – where CRISPR was respectively invented and adapted for genome editing in eukaryotes – the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the US company DuPont and the Massachusetts-based biotech firm Editas Medicine.
The struggle between UC and Broad over the standard Cas9 system is still on and is pushing the development of alternatives. CRISPR enzymes now come in approximately 50 different types, including Cpf1, C2c2, and CasY.
The partial score at the US and the EU patent offices is 34 patents granted to the Boston team and 10 to Berkeley. To learn more, read The Scientist.
The patent landscape is getting more complex and fragmented, as more and more CRISPR patents are granted. The world’s eyes, however, are on the foundational patent soon to be granted to the University of California after an epic legal battle with the Broad Institute. That does not automatically mean the end of a story that will be studied in Intellectual Property textbooks. In the meantime, smaller disputes over key licenses are already heating up.
CRISPR is cheap and easy enough to be employed in every lab not just by major ag-biotech companies. A serious roadblock standing in the way of researchers, however, threatened to limit the technology potential for plant breeding: intellectual property (IP) rights. The good news is that two major patent holders, DuPont Pioneer and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, have agreed to create a joint licensing framework for genome editing in agriculture. As a result, academic researchers are allowed to use CRISPR on plants free of charge, while biotech companies interested in commercial ag applications have a simplified procedure to access to the tools they need. Continue reading
Berkeley vs. Boston. Jennifer Doudna vs. Feng Zhang. The patent battle on the technique that is revolutionizing life sciences has often been described as a duel between the group that first experimented the CRISPR platform on the genome of bacteria and the group that, a few months later, adapted the system for use in eukaryotic cells. But the patent landscape is more complicated than that, and there are worries that the stunning potential of this genetic modification technology may crumble under a mountain of intellectual property rights claims. The good news is that several patent holders are discussing how to merge their assets into a joint licensing pool, to allow interested researchers to deal with a single subject. But will this strategy be suffice to safeguard the common interest, which is to enable as many groups as possible to work to turn CRISPR promises into reality? Continue reading