Berkeley v Broad Institute: Who Owns the Rights to Gene Editing? Recently, the US Patent Office decided that the patent rights for the most important applications of CRISPR do not belong to the university of the Nobel laureate, the University of California, Berkeley, but to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. In an interview, co-inventor Jennifer Doudna explains what she thinks of it.
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What do you think of the Patent Office’s decision against Berkeley?
It doesn’t really make sense to me [aber] I’m glad we still have our 45 existing and 40 pending patents in the US. And our 30 European patents are not affected by the judgement. In the scientific community, I don’t think there are many questions about what really happened. Honestly? I continue with my research.
Nobel laureate Jennifer Doudna
(Image: Christopher Michel)
My impression is that the patent dispute was less about money and more about recognition…
That’s your interpretation. That’s hard to say, isn’t it? I don’t know what other people’s motives were, but of course we appeal. Of course we don’t agree with the decision. And, of course, 30 countries and the Nobel Prize committee also disagree when it comes to who invented what first.
How has the marketing of CRISPR gone so far?
Great. A number of companies founded in the last decade have already gone public and many more are in various stages of development. We receive very interesting reports from clinical studies and see sustainable long-term effects on patients.
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The system of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) and the Cas9 nuclease was discovered by molecular biologists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier in 2012. Thanks to its easy handling and low costs, gene therapy is currently experiencing a revival.
(Image: Text: Inge Wünnenberg; Graphic: Brian Sipple)
The clinical application of CRISPR in medicine has so far been the focus. However, I suspect that over the next decade, CRISPR applications in agriculture and even in combating climate change will potentially have a much broader impact when we think about the global impact and the impact on everyday life. Pam Ronald, our research partner at UC Davis, used CRISPR to grow drought-tolerant rice and is about to field test these crops here in California. A little further afield, but also of great importance, I think, is the use of CRISPR in microbial communities, in soil or in water, which allows us to improve their carbon sequestration abilities.
Let’s talk briefly about genome editing in the genome. CRISPR Babies. There are certainly speculative health benefits to be seen. For example, there are likely versions of genes that protect people from Alzheimer’s. Do you think CRISPR should be used to make people more resilient to disease?
I think it’s likely that CRISPR could go in that direction. I’m passionate about improving people’s quality of life, whether it’s a disease like Alzheimer’s or cardiovascular disease, which also has a huge social and financial impact. In the future, if there were a way to use CRISPR to protect people from susceptibility to these types of diseases in general, it should be considered.
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