A patent dispute over what could be one of the most impactful scientific discoveries in recent years has been resolved, giving the Cambridge-based Broad Institute ownership over CRISPR/Cas9 -- a novel method of editing DNA.
"We agree with the decision by the patent office, which confirms that the patents and applications of Broad Institute and UC Berkeley are about different subjects and do not interfere with each other," the institute, a joint venture between Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement. "CRISPR research is a very large field that involves contributions from talented scientists around the world. We have deep respect for all of these scientific contributions."
CRISPR/Cas9 is a method of precisely editing and replacing genes, essentially using cellular scissors in a more precise and efficient manner than other gene editing tools.
After a yearlong process, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled yesterday that patents filed by Broad scientists did not cover the same subject as patents filed by researchers at the University of California Berkeley.
The UC Berkeley patents were for CRISPR/Cas9 in general, but the Broad patents were specifically for using the tool in plant and animal cells.
Although the UC Berkeley patents were actually filed first, the Broad patents were granted first because they included a fee for priority review.
In a statement, UC Berkeley said: "We will be carefully considering all possible legal options at this juncture."
The decision is especially critical because the patents don't cover a specific product, but rather the underlying technology for potentially countless therapies, medical treatments and other uses. The tool could be used for everything from genetically modifying crops to treating rare diseases.
The ruling also means other companies will likely need to license the Broad patents, which brings the promise of a big payday. Shares of Editas, the CRISPR start-up founded by one of the primary Broad researchers, spiked nearly 30 percent yesterday, while shares of companies that had licensed the UC Berkeley patents tumbled.
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