Oral arguments for who owns CRISPR-Cas9 start next month

The date has been set for oral arguments to begin over who owns the patent rights to the gene-editing wonder CRISPR-Cas9.

Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna and her colleague from the Max Planck Institute Emmanuelle Charpentier head to court on December 6th to face off against MIT’s Feng Zhang and present their argument before three US Patent and Trademark Office judges on why they, not Zhang, deserve the to own the patent that potentially holds the key to eradicating all inherited diseases.

There are several CRISPR patents in existence and MIT owns the lion’s share of them, but Doudna and Charpentier claim they should get the credit for a particular patent which Doudna claims is based on her work showing the CRISPR Cas9 system could edit bacterial DNA.

However, MIT argues Zhang took it a step further by showing it was also possible to edit the DNA in human cells.

Doudna and her team say that’s a logical conclusion, based on her work and not different enough from what she was able to come up with to merit the patent.

It’s been a bloody battle, costing tens of millions so far and could go on for years before we know where each side will end up.

But the fight isn’t just about getting credit for the work. CRISPR could change entire industries and this particular step holds the potential to wipe out cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s and many other debilitating but inheritable diseases — and it could be worth billions to whoever owns the rights to license the technology.

The order to set these proceedings came down in a four-page letter on November 5 and you can read about them here. They will be open to the public and the Alexandria, Virgina-based judges will be able to cross-examine each party and poke holes if they wish through each contention.