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.

John Hood [file photo]

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On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

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CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

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