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The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard lied about who invented the use of CRISPR genome editing in animal cells, and its lead CRISPR scientist Feng Zhang made statements to the patent office that he knew were “untrue,” attorneys for the University of California and its partners claim in legal documents filed Tuesday night with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

In strikingly tough language, the lawyers accused the Broad of trying to “deceive the Office” in order to win patents on the revolutionary technology, claimed another Broad scientist made a “materially false declaration” about when Zhang’s lab got CRISPR to work, and argued that Zhang didn’t know what molecules the genome editor needed until he read a rival’s key paper — all of which makes Zhang’s work “unpatentable.”


The filing is the latest development in a heated fight that will decide who was the first to turn the bacterial immune system CRISPR into an editor of the genomes of eukaryotes, organisms such as plants and animals whose DNA is contained within a cell nucleus. That use of CRISPR is the basis for essentially all of the medical and agricultural applications being developed by companies and others, and so represents a potential goldmine.

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  • This is going to be very interesting, especially for investors of NTLA (Doudna) and EDIT (Zhang). I tend to sympathize more with Doudna because the work in eukaryotes seems like a (possibly obvious) derivative of the foundational work in the gene editing technology.

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