CRISPR’s Long Fight, a Gene-Edited Burger, and Other Legal News
The Long Fight for Ownership of CRISPR
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced a winner (of sorts) in the long-running legal battle over ownership of the revolutionary gene-editing tool known as CRISPR-Cas9. Since 2012, the Broad Institute (which includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University) and a group led by the University of California-Berkley have been vying to secure patent rights in CRISPR, each claiming that they were the first to invent the biotechnology. CRISPR has become an extremely popular tool among all sorts of technology companies that are using it to edit the DNA of plants, animals, and even human applications. In fact, the development of CRISPR gene-editing was revolutionary enough to earn scientists Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
The USPTO ruled in favor of the Broad Institute, finding that it was the first group to successfully use the tool to edit genes in eukaryotic cells which have nuclei and are in plants and animals. The ruling is a significant win for the Broad Institute because the technology has become a foundational component in related technologies. The UC-Berkley team has already begun exploring an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Companies that develop and sell crops or animals that utilize CRISPR may be required to obtain licenses (or already have licenses) from the ultimate winner of the ownership fight over the patent rights. And some companies that have already secured licenses from the UC-Berkley team may now find them to be invalid, forcing them to seek a new license from Broad.
A CRISPR Burger is in Your Future
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved beef from genetically-edited cattle for human consumption, the first cattle to receive the USDA’s “low-risk determination for enforcement discretion.” Known as PRLR-SLICK cattle, the animals were developed with CRIPSR gene-editing to have a short, slick-hair coat which will enable them to withstand warmer, humid climates. Currently, most cattle raised in warm climates are of the Zebu-influence which are well-adapted to high temperature environments. However, beef from Zebu-influenced breeds typically have less marbling and are less tender than breeds such as Angus which originate from cooler regions. The PRLR-SLICK cattle enable cattle with better carcass traits to also have the heat-tolerance benefits of slick-coats, allowing them to thrive in regions where they would otherwise not finish out as well.