Sunday, February 7, 2016

Who's on first?

The 21st century is still young, but it may already have its era-defining patent fight.
The contestants are the University of California and the Broad Institute, a Harvard- and MIT-affiliated research foundation endowed by Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad. At stake are the rights to a breakthrough gene-editing technology known as CRISPR — and more precisely, to billions of dollars in royalties and license fees likely to flow to whichever claimant prevails before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (and in the almost inevitable appeals in court).
"This is a monumental event for patent attorneys, molecular biologists, the PTO, and the world," patent expert Jacob Sherkow wrote recently on Stanford's Law and Biosciences blog.
CRISPR — an acronym for the pattern in DNA strands that forms the basis of the technique — allows the cutting and splicing of DNA sequences with unprecedented precision and speed. Applied to animal and plant cells in the lab, researchers have spliced away mutations that cause blindness, made cells resistant to the HIV virus, cured muscular dystrophy in mice, and created wheat strains resistant to fungal diseases.
But that work is just a prelude for potential applications in human biology...
The patent case turns on the question of which researchers at the two institutions conceived of the most important CRISPR applications first...

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