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Broad Claims Patent on CRISPR Technology

By Bio-IT World Staff

April 15, 2014 | The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this morning issued the first patent to cover CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, awarding the Broad Institute a patent for a version of the CRISPR-Cas9 system used to modify the DNA of mammalian cells. The technology covered by this patent was first demonstrated in a January 2013 Science paper by senior author Feng Zhang, who has previously discussed his work on CRISPR-Cas9 with Bio-IT World for a feature on the gene therapy company Editas, of which Zhang is a founding member. While CRISPR-Cas9 exists in nature as a defense mechanism against viruses shared by many species of bacteria, the elaborate system of DNA-cutting proteins and guide RNA sequences requires extensive engineering to function in eukaryotic cells, and to insert new genes where the targeted host DNA is excised. These modifications are patentable under U.S. and international law.

In announcing the patent, the Broad Institute reemphasized its commitment to sharing insights and capabilities in CRISPR gene editing with scientists around the world. “Consistent with the Broad’s mission to accelerate the understanding and treatment of disease, we are committed to empowering the global research community by making this technology broadly available to scientists for research around the world,” said Institute Director Eric Lander in a press statement.

CRISPR has been cited as a very promising mechanism for curing genetic disease in humans, and has already been demonstrated in live mammals including cynomolgus monkeys and mice, in addition to its use in numerous basic research studies. The underlying chemistry of the Cas9 protein continues to be explored.

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