UC Berkeley CRISPR Patent Upheld


ERS Genomics is a biotechnology company held by co-founder Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier and was established to provide broad access to the foundational CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property. It recently announced that the European Patent Office (EPO) has upheld one of the CRISPR patents they hold.

This CRISPR IP is shared between Charpentier—a French professor and researcher in microbiology, genetics, and biochemistry, Jennifer Doudna⁠—an American biochemist and Li Ka Shing Chancellor Chair Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Vienna. The IP in question is separate from genome editing patents held by the Broad Institute.

Opposition to CRISPR Patent

An anonymous party was said to have filed an opposition to European patent No. EP2800811 entitled “Methods and Compositions for RNA-Directed Target DNA Modification and for RNA-Directed Modulation of Transcription” which describes a single-guide CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system as well as covers the use of the technology in both cellular and non-cellular settingsincluding in plants, animals, bacteria, and cells from vertebrates. Said opposition was part of a standard procedure at the EPO where patents are subject to a nine-month window to welcome any filings which can be done anonymously.

Two of the 23 original claims were left to stand with minor modification while two dependent claims were removed, which barely affect the coverage of the patent. According to Charpentier, she felt deeply gratified that the European patent office has confirmed the novelty and inventiveness of the it holds in acting as a curative therapy for serious and life-threatening diseases is promising. 

According to ERS CEO Eric Rhodes, the European patent has a broad and fundamental nature which acts as the basis for the outcome of the opposition hearing. He further added that in combination with the recent EPO Technical Board of Appeal decision upholding the full revocation of the Broad Institute’s patent EP2771468, further solidifies their position as holding the predominant CRISPR-Cas9 patent portfolio. Looking back In January 2020, the EPO Board of Appeal has also upheld the revocation of a Broad CRISPR patent. This could affect up to nine of its 21 CRISPR-Cas9 patents in Europe.

A Breakthrough in Treatment of Diseases With CRISPR Patent

Undeniably, genome editing is seen as a breakthrough in the prevention and treatment of human diseases and most research on genome editing is done to understand diseases using cells and animal models. However, scientists are still conducting further research to determine its safety and effectiveness for use in people. They hope that someday, they will be able to use it to cure a wide variety of diseases, including single-gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, and sickle cell disease. They are also looking into the technology for the treatment and prevention of more complex diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, mental illness, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

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