Could Cellectis upend CRISPR patent drama?
The battle has been raging for nine months now, an epic battle for supremacy over the CRISPR IP. The Broad Institute holds 13 patents for the CRISPR gene-editing technology, which are under fire from the University of California Berkeley. Now a third player has entered the arena. Earlier this week French biopharma company Cellectis announced that it has been issued patents that, it claims, broadly cover genome-editing methods including CRISPR.
Cellectis’ patent covers all gene-editing technologies that depend on chimeric endonucleases to alter and repair DNA, providing the DNA sequence has at least 12 base pairs, and only for in vitro applications. Cellectis CEO Andre Choulika says that this definition “covers most of the gene editing procedures done with a nuclease,” including those based on CRISPR/Cas9.
Other companies have already begun to dispute this read of Cellectis’ patent. And Jacob Sherkow, a patent specialist who works at New York Law School in New York City and has closely monitored the CRISPR landscape so far, doesn’t agree that CRISPR is covered by Cellectis’ umbrella patent. “I think Cellectis is taking an overly generous view of both the validity and scope of its new patent,” he says. “And given the state of the chimeric restriction endonuclease art prior to the patent’s 1999 date, there are some serious doubts as to its validity. We’ll see what Cellectis does with it.”