Patent board tells CRISPR sci­en­tists to back off from a nasty fight over gene edit­ing tech

The lat­est round in the ti­tle patent fight be­tween The Broad and UC Berkele­ly over CRISPR/Cas9 tech goes to … Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine.

The US Patent Tri­al and Ap­peal Board has ruled:

In light of the de­ter­mi­na­tion that the par­ties’ claims do not in­ter­fere (see 2 De­ci­sion on Mo­tions, Pa­per 893), we en­ter judg­ment of no in­ter­fer­ence-in-fact, 3 which nei­ther can­cels nor fi­nal­ly re­fus­es ei­ther par­ties’ claims.

Quick­ly trans­lat­ed, that means that the work they each com­plet­ed on the gene edit­ing tech doesn’t over­lap and can be sep­a­rate­ly patent­ed.

Jen­nifer Doud­na

Berke­ley has fought hard to es­tab­lish pre­em­i­nent con­trol of CRISPR, the faster, eas­i­er way to do gene edit­ing which has been spread­ing like wild­fire at aca­d­e­m­ic groups and star­tups. Berke­ley’s Jen­nifer Doud­na and Em­manuelle Char­p­en­tier have been cred­it­ed with much of the work, which has been used to found a group of star­tups like In­tel­lia $NT­LA, down 10% this af­ter­noon, and CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics — $CR­SP down 8%.

A for­mer col­league, Feng Zhang at the Broad, was ac­cused of us­ing their work to back patents used to start up Ed­i­tas $ED­IT.

Berke­ley is not the least bit hap­py:

We con­tin­ue to main­tain that the ev­i­dence over­whelm­ing­ly sup­ports our po­si­tion that the Doud­na/Char­p­en­tier team was the first group to in­vent this tech­nol­o­gy for use in all set­tings and all cell types, and was the first to pub­lish and file patent ap­pli­ca­tions di­rect­ed to­ward that in­ven­tion, and that the Broad In­sti­tute’s patents di­rect­ed to­ward use of the CRISPR-Cas9 sys­tem in par­tic­u­lar cell types are not patentably dis­tinct from the Doud­na/Char­p­en­tier in­ven­tion.

And they may ap­peal.

Feng Zhang

In­vestors, though, called it a clear win for Ed­i­tas, swift­ly dri­ving up its stock by 29%.

It’s still ear­ly days in the CRISPR world, but gene edit­ing has opened a door to cre­at­ing a whole new gen­er­a­tion of ther­a­pies that can fix some ter­ri­ble ail­ments. And the po­ten­tial pay­off is huge.

Ed­i­tas CEO Ka­trine Bosley is sat­is­fied by the de­ci­sion. Her com­ment:

This im­por­tant de­ci­sion af­firms the in­ven­tive­ness of the Broad’s work in trans­lat­ing the bi­ol­o­gy of the nat­ur­al world in­to fun­da­men­tal build­ing blocks to cre­ate un­prece­dent­ed med­i­cines. At Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine, we are con­tin­u­ing to in­vest in this tech­nol­o­gy to build our busi­ness for the long-term and to cre­ate genome edit­ing ther­a­pies for pa­tients suf­fer­ing from ge­net­i­cal­ly-de­fined and ge­net­i­cal­ly-treat­able dis­eases.

Ka­trine Bosley, Ed­i­tas

In­tel­lia, CRISPR and Cari­bou, an­oth­er al­ly in the patent fight, say they can ac­tu­al­ly step up a fight along a much broad­er front now. In a joint re­sponse, they not­ed:

The PT­AB dis­con­tin­ued the cur­rent in­ter­fer­ence find­ing that the claim sets pre­sent­ed by the two par­ties were con­sid­ered “patentably dis­tinct” from each oth­er be­cause UC’s cur­rent claims are broad­er in scope in that they are not re­strict­ed to use in eu­kary­ot­ic cells, where­as Broad’s claims are all lim­it­ed to use in eu­kary­ot­ic cells. As a re­sult of the de­ci­sion, UC’s broad­er case, which was pre­vi­ous­ly con­sid­ered al­low­able but for the in­ter­fer­ence, is now re­leased from the in­ter­fer­ence and may be pros­e­cut­ed to po­ten­tial is­suance by UC, while a new in­ter­fer­ence can be sought with re­spect to eu­kary­ote claims, cur­rent­ly pend­ing in a sep­a­rate UC patent ap­pli­ca­tion once they are deemed al­low­able. Al­ter­na­tive­ly, UC could ap­peal the cur­rent de­ci­sion, which is cur­rent­ly un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

Patent fights rarely cap­ture the at­ten­tion of the in­dus­try the way this one has. Most ei­ther don’t go very far or end up be­ing re­solved in a side deal that doesn’t have a huge in­flu­ence on the play­ers or the tech­nol­o­gy in­volved. As pas­sion­ate as these in­di­vid­u­als are about CRISPR, though, we prob­a­bly haven’t heard the last about this squab­ble.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

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Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

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Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.