UC rings out 2019 with its 20th CRISPR patent

The federal government has given the University of California a New Year’s Eve gift — its 20th U.S. patent on CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technologies. The addition expands a broad patent portfolio that is already being used to improve human and animal health and crop breeding.

The new patent is the 18th involving CRISPR-Cas9 technology received this year by the UC and its collaborators — the University of Vienna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, who co-invented the technology with UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna, professor of molecular and cell biology and of chemistry. Charpentier currently is director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany.

“2019 was an incredibly important and fruitful year in our continuous efforts to sustain UC as the leader of CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property in the United States,” said Eldora L. Ellison, lead patent strategist on CRISPR-Cas9 matters for the university and a director at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox, a law firm specializing in intellectual property rights. “We are encouraged by the USPTO’s (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s) recognition of the Doudna-Charpentier team’s leadership on CRISPR-Cas9 this year and look forward to continuing to expand our portfolio in 2020.”

Consistent with the UC’s long-standing commitment to develop and apply its patented technologies for the betterment of humankind, the university allows nonprofit institutions, including academic institutions, to use the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 technology for non-commercial research and educational purposes.

The UC has also encouraged widespread commercialization of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology through an exclusive license with Caribou Biosciences Inc. of Berkeley, California, which has sublicensed the patent family to numerous companies worldwide. Currently, the technology is being applied to edit the genomes of cattle, sheep and pigs to help them fend off disease, to develop screens for drugs for human disease, to generate modified human and mouse cell lines that will help researchers understand and treat these disorders in humans, and to produce research reagents.

Caribou also licenses the technology to Intellia Therapeutics Inc. for human therapeutic applications, specifically cures for cancer, genetic disorders, viral infections and inflammatory diseases.

The new patent (U.S. Patent 10,519,467), which introduces a method of producing a genetically modified cell using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, is part of a portfolio of foreign and domestic patents that encompasses numerous compositions and methods of CRISPR-Cas9, such as targeting and editing genes and modulating transcription in any setting, including within plant, animal and human cells. The UC’s 20 patents represent the largest CRISPR-Cas9 patent portfolio in the United States. The UC has received notices of allowance for five additional patents that will be issued in early 2020.

International patent offices have also recognized the pioneering innovations of the Doudna-Charpentier team. The European Patent Office, representing more than 30 countries, as well as patent offices in the United Kingdom, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and other countries, have issued patents for the use of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing in all types of cells.

The compositions and methods claimed in the UC’s 20 patents and others that the USPTO plans to issue in 2020 were included among the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology work first described by the Doudna-Charpentier team in its May 25, 2012 priority patent application. The Doudna-Charpentier team that invented the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA-targeting technology consisted of Doudna and Martin Jinek at UC Berkeley; Charpentier, who was then at Umea University in Sweden; and Krzysztof Chylinski at the University of Vienna.

Doudna, the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair at UC Berkeley and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, has received many awards for her co-discovery of CRISPR-Cas9. Among these are the the Japan Prize in 2016, the Kavli Prize in 2018 and the LUI Che Woo Welfare Betterment Prize in 2019. In 2015, Doudna was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.