US Tribunal – CRISPR Patents Belong to MIT, Harvard

In a blow to Nobel Prize-winning researcher Emmanuelle Charpentier, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Vienna, it has been ruled by a US tribunal that deals with patent disputes, that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University would be considered as the owners of patents on CRISPR, a breakthrough gene-editing technology.

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the school that got the patent, said that the decision was a validation of their patents and that they were issued validly.

According to Editas Medicine Inc (EDIT.O), a licensee of CRISPR technology from the Broad Institute, with which it develops medicines for people with serious diseases, the decision reaffirmed the strength of the patents.

While acknowledging that the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Vienna had conceived of a CRISPR system first, the tribunal based its judgment on their inability to demonstrate that their system works with eukaryotic cells before the Broad School’s invention was patented.

What is CRISPR?

With the use of CRISPR, scientists can edit genes with the help of biological ‘scissors.’ In other words, they can edit DNA.

Clinical trials are currently underway for its potential to cure diseases that are the result of genetic abnormality or mutation.

History of CRISPR patents

A CRISPR patent was first sought in 2012 by University of Vienna’s Charpentier and UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna. The duo eventually went on to share the Nobel prize for Chemistry eight years later for their work on CRISPR.

The Broad Institute was the first to obtain a CRISPR patent in 2014. It obtained related patents subsequently.

Broad School has clarified that its 2014 patent was different from the invention of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Vienna because it was about the use of CRISPR for purposes such as genome editing in so-called eukaryotic cells.

What next?

The University of California, Berkeley who, along with its partners, holds more than 40 CRISPR related patents, is understood to be considering ‘various options’ for challenging the decision.

The decision can be challenged in the US Court of Appeals for the federal circuit, where patent cases are handled. In a related case in 2018, this court had ruled in favor of Broad.


Katie Sullivan

Katie is a digital nomad and business consultant. She has a bachelor's degree in business and has in the last 15 years in both the private and non-profit sectors. Her passion is helping people become better themselves and in turn creating better businesses. When she isn't chasing around her twin boys, she loves reading and gardening. She can be reached at [email protected]

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