UC Berkeley loses CRISPR gene editing patent case

The US Patent and Trademark Office announced Monday that MIT and Harvard’s Broad Institute were the first to use the gene-editing tool CRISPR on human cells. The verdict stymied the University of California, Berkeley’s efforts to gain lucrative patent rights to the invention over the years. Jennifer Doudna, who co-invented the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system with Emmanuelle Charpentier and won a Nobel Prize in 2020, is a UC Berkeley graduate.

It also makes it more difficult for some biotech businesses to create gene-editing therapeutics based on CRISPR, such as Caribou Biosciences and Intellia Therapeutics, which licensed the CRISPR technology from the UC Berkeley group.

The Broad Institute said in a statement that the verdict “confirmed Broad’s patents were lawfully awarded.” “Broad believes that all institutions should collaborate to guarantee that this breakthrough technology is widely available and open to all.”

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CVC, a UC Berkeley club, stated in a statement that it intended to appeal the ruling. The company also owns a slew of additional CRISPR-related patents.

The ruling is expected to put an end to a long-running legal battle over who owns the gene-editing technique that transformed genetic research and biotech. It allows scientists to cut and reorganize sections of DNA with ease, modifying the way it codes for different tasks. In 2012, Doudna and her colleagues released the first report on the CRISPR system, demonstrating its operation in a test tube. Then, in 2013, researchers from the Broad Institute published a study on using CRISPR in animal and human cells.

Both universities applied for patents, and the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) granted the Broad Institute CRISPR patents in 2014. The PTO decided in 2017 that the patents from the two organizations were sufficiently diverse that they could both stand — and that the Broad Institute retained patents for the use of CRISPR in complex human and animal cells, potentially worth billions. UC Berkeley filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC, but was unsuccessful.

The judgment came as a consequence of another lawsuit brought by UC Berkeley to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in 2019, which pitted other CVC patents against patents held by the Broad Institute. The PTO sided with the Broad Institute once more.