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China’s State Intellectual Property Office, or SIPO, announced Monday that it will grant the University of California, in conjunction with the University of Vienna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, a patent for its CRISPR gene-editing technology.
China’s decision comes amidst a long battle between the UC and the Broad Institute over intellectual property rights for the CRISPR technology.
The patent will also allow genome editing company Intellia Therapeutics, which is licensed by the UC, to market any human therapy it develops from CRISPR in China, according to campus spokesperson Robert Sanders.
CRISPR, pioneered by campus professor of chemistry and molecular and cell biology Jennifer Doudna, can be used to rearrange genetic code in whole organisms or alter DNA in reproductive cells in order to correct genetic defects. The patent, Sanders said, will allow the use of the technology in noncellular and cellular settings, such as cells themselves or Petri dishes, for a variety of purposes, including treating diseases or producing medicines.
In February, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board found that the Broad Institute and UC’s uses of CRISPR technology were separately patentable. The UC has filed an appeal for patent rights, however, the dispute has yet to be resolved.
“China is following the lead of the EU and UK in saying that Doudna and Charpentier were the first to invent the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology,” Sanders said in an email. “We are arguing that the US Patent and Trademark Office should also recognize Doudna and Charpentier were the first to invent the technology.”
According to Lee McGuire, the chief communications officer for the Broad Institute, China is still considering patent applications from the Broad Institute.
“We expect (China) will issue. In China, patents are subject to invalidation proceedings after they are issued,” McGuire said in an email.
The UC has declined to comment on SIPO’s decision, according to university attorney Lynn Pasahow, who is currently working on the CRISPR case.
“I have an explicit request from the UC not to comment to the media (regarding China),” Pasahow said.
China’s decision to award the patent to the UC comes after two Chinese clinical trials using the technology. The first trial in October 2016, led by researchers from Sichuan University’s West China Hospital in Chengdu, involved the use of CRISPR on humans to modify genes in Chinese lung cancer patients.
The second trial took place in Nanjing University’s Nanjing Drum Tower’s Hospital last April, in which genes were removed, modified, then reinjected into 20 patients with late-stage nasopharyngeal carcinoma, gastric cancer and lymphoma, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
“CRISPR-Cas9 is a revolutionary technology that is already impacting science and health care around the world, in China and elsewhere,” Sanders said in an email.