Gene Editing, Legal

Take that Editas: CRISPR Therapeutics and colleagues win a European round in the IP tug-of-war over gene editing tech

Jennifer Doudna

Still boiling over the latest patent decision on CRISPR/Cas 9 IP in the US, CRISPR Therapeutics $CRSP says its scientific founders have won a broad patent covering their work in Europe.

The European Patent Office has come through with patent no. 13793997, says the biotech. And the UK’s patent office followed through, taking the same position.

Emmanuelle Charpentier

“We and the licensors of these foundational cases for CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing have long appreciated that Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna, and their doctoral and post-doctoral colleagues provided essential teachings that effectively enabled and facilitated the CRISPR field, which has allowed both researchers and gene editing companies to easily and precisely modulate target DNA sequences in any cell type and setting, including in human cells for potential therapeutic applications,” said Dr. Tyler Dylan-Hyde, the chief legal officer of CRISPR Therapeutics. “We also appreciate that, despite attempts by third parties trying to delay or prevent these grants through TPOs or potential oppositions, patent offices are beginning to recognize both the fundamental significance of the teachings by the Charpentier-Doudna team and their wide applicability to the CRISPR field. We look forward to pursuing similar findings in the U.S. under the first-to-invent system, and throughout the approximately 80 other countries our filings cover worldwide, all of which are on a first-to-file priority system.”

Feng Zhang

Editas Medicines $EDIT came out on top recently in the latest US matchup. The rival biotech relies in part on patents held by The Broad, which originated in work done by Feng Zhang, a one-time collaborator with Doudna and Charpentier.

Back in December, just days after CRISPR Therapeutics and a group of rivals formed an IP alliance around CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tech, Editas fired back in the patent war by bagging an exclusive license to what was being billed as an upgrade to improve researchers’ ability to edit genes and fight disease.

How does this new patent affect Editas?

Sam Kulkarni, Crispr

Sam Kulkarni, the chief business officer at CRISPR Therapeutics, tells me in an email that the European patent sets up a key IP roadblock for any company looking to commercialize CRISPR/Cas9 on the continent.

The decision of the EPO to grant the patents with broad claims for CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing across all cell types means that access to the CRISPR/UC Foundational IP will likely be necessary for any party trying to commercialize CRISPR-based therapeutics in Europe.  The patents granted to the Broad Institute in Europe are limited in nature and also the subject of proceedings challenging their validity and issuance at the Opposition Division of the EPO.

A spokesperson for Editas, though, doesn’t sound too worried.

Our strategy from day one has been to build a strong IP position that is fundamental, broad, and multifaceted. It’s an important investment for Editas and is part of building the leading genomic medicine company for the long-term. Editas’ foundational IP includes patents issued by both the US and Europe Patent Offices covering the use of CRISPR/Cas9 in eukaryotic cells.  Consequently, we are confident in our IP position, which we believe is a necessary factor for making CRISPR medicines for people.


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