Merck KGaA Wins First CRISPR Patent for US
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Germany’s Merck a patent for its proxy-CRISPR technology. This is the Darmstadt-based pharmaceuticals and chemicals producer’s first US patent for CRISPR.
Merck regards itself as a leading innovator of the CRISPR technology, which it also considers a “core competence.” Going forward, it will “continue to collaborate with scientists around the world to ensure that the full potential of this powerful tool is realized, responsibly and ethically,” said Udit Batra, member of the executive board and CEO, Life Science.
To date, the company has been awarded 13 worldwide patents for CRISPR-related technologies by authorities in Australia, Canada, Europe, Singapore, China, Israel and South Korea. These cover foundational and alternative genome-editing methods.
In Australia, Canada and Europe, Merck’s patents cover the CRISPR paired nickase technology (cleaving opposite strands of a chromosomal sequence to create a double-stranded break). Patents for its CRISPR integration technology (chromosomal cutting of the sequence of eukaryotic cells and insertion of a DNA sequence) have been granted in Australia, Canada, Europe, Singapore, China, Israel and South Korea. The company licenses its entire patent portfolio for all applications.
According to Merck, the new proxy-CRISPR genome-editing technique makes CRISPR more efficient, flexible and specific by opening the genome for modification of DNA. With it, scientists can modify regions of the genome which are difficult to access.
To deploy the proxy-CRISPR method, two CRISPR systems are designed to target the genome in proximity to each other and work together. One system opens a regional “door,” pushing away blocking chromatin proteins, while the other walks through it to find the exact location for modification, the company explains.
As the resulting modification requires two CRISPR binding events, the proxy-CRISPR method is said to enable twice the specificity of individual CRISPR systems.
In order to guarantee that its work conforms to ethical and legal standards.
Merck has established an independent, external Bioethics Advisory Panel to provide guidance for research in which its businesses are involved.