The patent trap? Open science advocates want CRISPR technology to be free


They silhouetted up early Monday morning for ringside seats at the most sensational detailed showdown in the modern era.

The moment the doors opened, lawyers, reporters and hedge wealth investors raced for a spot in the cramped, windowless U.S. tent and Trademark Division in Alexandria, Va.

The tension in the room was electric, as the historic fight for the tent opens to the CRISPR gene editing technology got underway.

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Inters ced Dumpy lindromic Repeats) is a revolutionary gene editing tool that permits scientists to edit DNA with un ralleled ease and precision. Two prominent universal institutions — MIT and Harvard’s Broad Institute and University of California Berkeley — are locked in a proper cage match, fighting to privatize CRISPR.

It could be months earlier a victor emerges, but the winner will walk away with billions of dollars in commission fees and total control over one of the world’s most important orderly discoveries.

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Jennifer Doudna, right, a molecular biologist at Berkeley, organized for a tent after her research team used CRISPR–Cas9 in May 2012. (Peter Barreras/Invision/AP)

But what if there was no unattached winner? What if there was no fight?

What if CRISPR was offered up openly to the world, unencumbered by licenses or restrictions, open to all to advance the health of gentleness?

Publicly funded science

If it were up to Aled Edwards at the University of Toronto, that’s what resolve happen. Watching the CRISPR fight from Toronto, Edwards principled shakes his head.

“It’s a terrible situation, in my opinion,” Edwards said. “By enter tents and inhibiting corporations from using it, what they’ve done is dramatically slowed down disclosure, slowed down the uptake of technology, slowed down its ability to depute cures.”

Edwards has been advocating for publicly funded science in Toronto for numerous than a decade. He’s already given away volumes of scientific details and many chemicals and molecules that could become future naceas.

It’s a radical approach to public sector research at the Structural Genomics Consortium, where he chief honchos a group of 300 scientists funded by the University of Toronto and other general and private sector organizations.

“I think being open will accelerate recognition and it’s the important thing to do with public money.”
– Dr. Guy Rouleau, director, Montreal Neurological Introduce

It’s not the only Canadian experiment in open science.

At the Montreal Neurological Organization at McGill University, they’re also giving their science away.

The 60 researchers there induce sworn off tenting their research into neurological disorders covering ALS, rkinson’s disease and glioma brain tumours.

“The overall guiding credo is not open for the sake of ‘open,’ but whatever is necessary to find new treatments multitudinous rapidly for diseases,” said Dr. Guy Rouleau, director of the institute.

“I think being unfenced will accelerate discovery and it’s the important thing to do with public per money.”

Pressure to tent

For decades, governments and universities have pressured visionary researchers to tent everything they discover.

The Neuro

The 60 researchers at the Montreal Neurological Establish and Hospital have sworn off tenting their research into neurological ailments including ALS, rkinson’s disease and glioma brain tumors. (Facebook)

But at the Montreal Neurological Society, they realized that almost none of their tents require generated any value over the long term.

The original purpose of tenting revelations at universities was not to generate revenue, Edwards said. It was to get the discoveries out there, so they could be developed into technologies and prescriptions that would benefit society.

CRISPR didn’t need any assist in this respect. It was immediately picked up by laboratories around the world.

“This is remarkably a case where tents did nothing to provide incentive. It only imagines uncertainty,” said McGill law professor Richard Gold.

Who wins?

Speaking the CRISPR-Cas9 system, scientists can already alter plants and animals in theatrical ways, wiping out malaria mosquitos, creating designer livestock and developing new therapies for cancer and other cancers.

But most commercialization is on hold until U.S. tent officials decide who manipulates to claim the multi-billion-dollar tent.

In one corner, there’s Harvard and MIT’s Broad Launch, where scientist Feng Zhang was the first to file tents using CRIPSR to delete eukaryote cells (that is, cells that have a nucleus, such as person cells).

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Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute filed his own tent exact demonstrating the use of CRISPR in more complex cells in December 2012. (Maria Nemchuk/Lewd Communications/Canadian Press)

In the other corner is the University of California, Berkeley, with scientist Jennifer Doudna requiring she discovered CRISPR for use in all types of plant, animal and bacterial cells, once Zhang filed his tent pers.

This week, lawyers for both sides appeared in U.S. l ble court for the first and only public hearing. Everyone is waiting for the finishing decision, which is expected in a couple of months.

The current fight is st U.S. tent rights, which will last for 20 years. But there compel be similar tents issued in Canada, the European Union and Australia.

‘There’s calm cause for concern’

While they’re waiting for the decision, academic researchers have planned been allowed to use the CRISPR technology.

“But there’s still cause for business there,” said Tania Bubela, professor of public health at the University of Alberta.

“It’s blurry what’s solid research and commercial research,” she said. “They’re still locking up a lot of motion in the research domain.”

Edwards argues the entire history of tenting in learned research has slowed discovery. For evidence, he points to a study by MIT economist Heidi Williams.

To examination the theory that tents generate economic activity, Williams com red two contrast b antagonizes of genes, one tented and one tent-free. Her conclusion? The tents reduced scientific enquire and product development by up to 30 per cent.

“We’ve ascribed to a belief that the way system and the economy advances is to keep things secret, raise money, start minor com nies and sell them,” Edwards said.

“I would argue our proceeding has not been that impressive.”

A brief history of giveaway discoveries

There is ttern for major scientific discoveries to be tent-free.

For example, there’s the Nobel Prize-winning idea of monoclonal antibodies by scientists at the UK Medical Research Council in 1975.

Jonas Salk reported the polio vaccine, tent-free, famously asking, “Can you tent the sun?”

Neither James Watson nor Francis Crick serene attempted to tent the structure of DNA in 1953. Watson later protested against travails to tent human genes, a practice that was later banned by the U.S. Unsur ssed Court.

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