CRISPR ruling invalidates some biotech patents

The Broad Institute was the first to invent CRISPR-Cas9 technology for use in animal cells, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said, siding with two Nobel laureates in a long-running dispute that affects the licensing agreements of some fiercely in the field. monitored biotech companies.

Monday’s ruling determined that Nobel laureates Jennifer Doudna of the University of California at Berkeley and Emmanuelle Charpentier of the University of Vienna could not prove that they were the first to use the gene-editing technology in animal cells. In the long-standing patent battle, UC Berkeley and the University of Vienna said their scientists were the first to find a way to target CRISPR-Cas9 to specific locations on the genome. Broad claimed that his scientists were the first to prove the technology worked in plants and animals, including humans.
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A number of biotechnology companies, including Intellia Therapeutics Inc. and CRISPR Therapeutics AG, have licensed CRISPR-Cas9 from UC Berkeley and the University of Vienna, known as CVC. The ruling invalidates those patents, meaning the companies must license the technology from the Broad Institute, said Jacob Sherkow, a law professor at the University of Illinois.

The Broad Institute, a research group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, can’t sue companies until drugs are approved, Sherkow said. But the decision casts a “rather long shadow” over companies developing CRISPR drugs with licenses from CVC, he said.

The University of California said it was disappointed with the decision, which it said contained a number of errors. CVC is considering several options to challenge the ruling, which can be appealed, it said in a statement.

An Intellia spokesperson said the decision does not affect its ongoing research and development plans, while CRISPR Therapeutics said its programs will continue and will not be affected by the ruling. Doudna did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Editas Medicine Inc., which has an exclusive licensing agreement with the Broad Institute, praised the decision. Shares rose a whopping 17% in late trading Monday.

Intellia, which also shared data on Monday from a study using CRISPR to treat a deadly liver disease, fell 9.2%, while CRISPR Therapeutics fell 1.4%.

Biotech companies have already started pursuing other technologies for gene editing, such as other enzymes or other techniques such as basic editing.

“It will be very, very important for a short period of time and then not much more,” Sherkow said of the decision.

—With help from Susan Decker.

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