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Making a key ruling in a long-running battle over lucrative patent rights, a government patent board has knocked down the University of California’s initial claims that its scientists turned CRISPR into a genome editor in plant and animal cells in 2012, threatening its effort to secure patents on the groundbreaking technology.

The decision from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board comes in an ongoing dispute over who first invented the use of CRISPR genome editing in eukaryotic cells (animal and plant cells, not bacteria or DNA floating in a test tube). It’s the latest turn in a years long and at times nasty battle between the Broad Institute of Cambridge, Mass., and UC and its partners, the University of Vienna and scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier (collectively known in the case as CVC).


CVC had argued that Jennifer Doudna of UC Berkeley and colleagues demonstrated that CRISPR-Cas9 could edit eukaryotic genomes in 2012. But the patent judges rejected that claim, setting CVC’s priority date on Jan. 28, 2013. This is essentially the earliest date that CVC has so far established, in the eyes of patent officials, that CRISPR could be used for this purpose. The Broad’s priority date is set as Dec. 12, 2012.

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