On Monday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that CRISPR patents key to developing human therapies belong to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and not the home institutions of Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier — the two scientists who won the Nobel Prize for creating the revolutionary genome-editing technology.
After a bitter seven-year battle between the Broad and Doudna and Charpentier’s side, known as the CVC group, the patent judges finally issued a definitive opinion on who invented the “guide RNA” molecule that allows the genome editor to work in eukaryotic cells. They determined that it was Feng Zhang, of the Broad, who first “reduced to practice” this process, which is a critical step for developing medicines to treat human diseases, the most lucrative application of CRISPR technology.
Monday’s decision could potentially cost the CVC group millions of dollars in licensing fees, a windfall that will instead land on the Broad’s doorstep. It is also likely to complicate things for the flock of companies trying to commercialize CRISPR-based medicines. Here are some of the biggest questions facing the field following the ruling, and experts’ best attempts to answer them.
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