Marshall Lerner delivered a presentation to a group of undergraduate, doctoral and postdoctoral students in the Chemistry Department of Harvard University on April 16, 2018 about the CRISPR patent litigation and the use of CRISPR in eukaryotic cells.
A CRISPR-Cas9 system is a combination of protein and ribonucleic acid (“RNA”) that can alter the genetic sequence of an organism. In their natural environment, CRISPR-Cas systems protect bacteria against infection by viruses. The CRISPR-Cas9 system is now being developed as a powerful tool to modify specific deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) in the genomes of other organisms, from plants to animals. With CRISPR, scientists can create mouse models of human diseases much
more quickly than before, study individual genes much faster, and easily change multiple genes in cells at once to study their interactions. It has been used in labs to correct for the mutation that causes sickle-cell anemia, create mosquitoes that can fight malaria in their bodies, and make crops more resistant to disease and drought.
There is currently litigation between the owner of the patent rights to basic CRISPR technology, UC Berkeley, and the owners of the patent rights to the improvement of CRISPR to be used in eukaryotic cells, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Mr. Lerner discussed the key issues in the litigation.
Mr. Lerner also discussed some of the bioethical issues pertaining to the use of CRISPR technology.