June 4, 2015
A revolutionary biotechnology tool is the focus of an intense biotechnology patent dispute that will have far-reaching impact in coming years. The dispute is over the rights to the CRISPR-cas9 system, a versatile molecular scissors that allows precise editing of a genome. “CRISPR” stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, and “cas” for CRISPR-associated proteins.

Who will own the patent rights and thus the profit from its commercialization? The central question is who first discovered how the system could be harnessed for genome editing, with two separate scientific teams asserting discovery. The USPTO is currently evaluating whether to declare an interference, on technology that could generate billions of dollars for its ultimate owners.

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