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The usual suspects have done a fine job of turning the CRISPR patent landscape into a minefield for companies trying to figure out what intellectual property they need to make their hoped-for therapies, but an unusual suspect is about to mix things up even more.

The MilliporeSigma subsidiary of Germany-based pharmaceutical company Merck KGaA will soon receive a patent on an invention that increases CRISPR’s efficiency and decreases its off-target effects, according to documents posted this month by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Both attributes could be extremely useful to would-be developers of treatments based on the genome-editing tool.


Although Massachusetts-based MilliporeSigma is seldom mentioned in the same breath as key CRISPR patent holders such as the Broad Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, Vilnius University, and the University of California, the company has already roiled the CRISPR IP scene in Europe, winning patents that few experts saw coming. The soon-to-be issued patent would be its first CRISPR-related one in the U.S.

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