Viewpoint: Intellectual property tug-of-war could hinder the CRISPR gene-editing revolution

Image Credit: iStock/Nastco

Conservative estimates place the value-added of [intellectual property] on the American economy at nearly $1 trillion annually

Take, for instance, that strange-sounding acronym, CRISPR, that’s been all over the news lately. CRISPR…is a revolutionary gene-editing tool that can be used to engineer new crops, control mosquitoes, and even turn cancer cells into “turncoats” against other cancer cells, thereby shrinking tumors.

Scientists have known about the potential for gene-editing sequences since the late 1980s, but until this decade, scientists couldn’t test the CRISPR bacterial defense system on genetic information. Then, in 2012, researchers from the University of California (UC) Berkeley got CRISPR to work its magic on DNA contained in a test tube.

Unfortunately, flaws in the American patent system kept the university from capitalizing on their groundbreaking application. Broad Institute…rushed to take the technology and apply it to whole mammalian cells. They succeeded in editing these cells’ genes, and sought the lucrative CRISPR IP that UC Berkeley had already applied for. Despite UC Berkeley’s straightforward claim of “getting there first,” the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) awarded the patent to Broad Institute…

Related article:  What can CRISPR do for agriculture? Deep dive into crop gene editing's sustainable future

Due to PTAB’s…inconsistent IP protection standards, patents deemed “too broad” often go by the wayside without regard for the original innovators behind a technology. PTAB paid no heed to UC Berkeley’s patent application…And keep in mind, every day of unnecessary litigation means a day that these potentially life-saving discoveries aren’t used.

Read full, original article: Sloppy Government IP Protection Hinders Scientific Discovery

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