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With the Broad Institute’s big win on Wednesday in its battle over key patents on the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology, everything is now crystal clear. Kidding!

The University of California seemed to be the loser, since the patent judges denied its effort to effectively block the Broad’s patents. But in a call with reporters, Paul Alivisatos, UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for research, was upbeat that the ruling would allow UC’s patent claims to finally “move forward.” Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna, whose pioneering CRISPR discoveries UC has been trying to patent, pronounced herself “delighted.” Alivisatos dodged a question about why, if UC found the decision so great, it had issued a statement saying it was “considering all of its options,” including an appeal.


That was right before the discussion turned to green tennis balls. (More on that below.) What inquiring minds want to know:

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  • Clearly, I’m quite naive, but isn’t UC a publicly funded not-for-profit institution? Why, then, would it have any interest in owning intellectual property rights? If these discoveries were paid for by tax-payer dime, shouldn’t the intellectual property be public domain?

    • Much of research at large Universities like UC does not come from taxpayers. But the Federal NIH does fund alot, with the hope the patents will create new companies and grow the economy. UC is non-profit, and plows the income into new labs and top researchers to stay leading edge. Otherwise nobody could compete with the likes of MIT, Harvard, and Stanford for talent and research funds.

  • If what Zhang did was not obvious (LOL), than, it should imply that if I find a different “non obvious” way to make crispr/cas9 work in eukaryotic cells (changing some/all aspects of the procedure), I should be able to patent it too. Or not?

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