The biotechnology trial of the century over CRISPR patent settled in US court

Date :
17 February 2017
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News.com
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News.com
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Http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/human-body/the-biotechnology-trial-of-the-century-over-crispr-patent-settled-in-us-court/news-story/7a2484f89b9668cdbcfe3340e636abbc
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AN INFLUENTIAL US science advisory committee this week said genetic modification of human embryos should be allowed in the future to eliminate diseases, sparking new debate on a controversial topic.
The report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) caused concern among some researchers who fear that genetic tools could be used to boost certain people’s intelligence or create people with particular physical traits.
“Clinical trials for genome editing of the human germ line — adding, removing or replacing DNA base pairs in gametes or early embryos — could be permitted in the future,” said the report, released Wednesday (AEST).
“But only,” it added, “for serious conditions under stringent oversight.”
The emergence of inexpensive and accurate gene-editing technology, known as CRISPR/Cas9, has fuelled “an explosion of new research opportunities and potential clinical applications, both heritable and non-heritable, to address a wide range of human health issues,” the report said.
The committee of international experts was convened to examine scientific, ethical and governance issues surrounding human genome editing.
The experts noted that clinical trials on gene editing for certain non-hereditary traits are already under way.
“These therapies affect only the patient, not any offspring, and should continue for treatment and prevention of disease and disability, using the existing ethical norms and regulatory framework for development of gene therapy,” it said.
The warning come as a major patent battle over the technology was settled in the US in recent days.
What many described as the biotechnology trial of the century, the Broad Institute won the patent to the popular gene-editing process known as CRISPR/Cas-9.
The legal battle over who really invented the technology pitted Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute — a research facility affiliated with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — against French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin and biochemist Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley.
Both sides claimed to have developed CRISPR-Cas9, which allows scientists to edit stretches of the genome by removing, adding or changing pieces of the DNA sequence.
Scientists say the technology has the potential to cure diseases but also raises ethical questions, particularly when it comes to the prospect of forever altering the human race.
Charpentier and Doudna have won multiple prizes in the past four years and were widely considered to have discovered this gene-editing technique. Their work was first published in the journal Science in June 2012.
“This important decision affirms the inventiveness of the Broad’s work in translating the biology of the natural world into fundamental building blocks to create unprecedented medicines,” said a statement by Katrine Bosley, president and chief executive officer of Editas Medicine, which has an exclusive licence on the Broad Institute’s patent for human-therapy applications.
The Atlantic magazine described Editas Medicine as “the biggest winner.”
“Assuming the patent decision does not change, Editas will be the major player in human CRISPR therapies in the foreseeable future,” it said.

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