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Judges hear arguments in CRISPR case

A panel of judges for the United States patent office appeared skeptical of the University of California’s efforts to gain control of a patent for a powerful gene-editing tool, according to reports.

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board heard the first oral arguments in a case over who should get the rights to the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique, which many think could sharply increase our ability to modify genomes of plants and animals. The CRISPR-Cas9 system is adapted from bacteria.

On one side is the University of California, Berkeley, whose researcher Jennifer Doudna filed the first patent for the technique in May 2012. On the other are the Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Feng Zhang first demonstrated use of CRISPR-Cas9 in eukaryotic cells, the type found in animals and plants. Zhang filed his patent in December 2012, but paid for an expedited review.

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