Researcher observing a CRISPR-Cas9 process through a stereomicroscope. Photo: Gregor Fischer/picture alliance via Getty Images

A UC Berkeley-led research team was awarded a patent Tuesday for unique RNA guides that work with the Cas9 protein to target and cut genes via the gene-editing tool, CRISPR.

Why it matters: With money rapidly flowing into CRISPR-related technology and experiments, patents surrounding its use are expected to be lucrative, particularly in fields on genetic diseases and food security. UC Berkeley recently lost its battle with Broad Institute-MIT-Harvard in the Federal Circuit for what some call the most important patent regarding CRISPR, but it now has 2 CRISPR patents approved, with more expected.

"Today’s news ... represents yet another validation of the historic and field-changing breakthrough invented by scientists Jennifer Doudna, Emmanuelle Charpentier, and their team... The patent announced today specifically highlights the CRISPR-Cas9 invention’s ability to edit DNA in any setting, including within animal and human cells. It also highlights its utility in several formats across both dual-RNA and single-RNA configurations, useful for therapy for genetic diseases and for improving food security."
— Edward Penhoet, special adviser to the UC Berkeley chancellor, tells Axios

The details: According to the patent, the compositions can be used in animal or human cells, and can work as either 2 separate pieces of RNA or a single piece of RNA.

  • Penhoet says the new patent covers 2 RNA components that together form the "DNA-targeting-RNA," with one that targets the particular sequence of DNA needed to be edited and the other that binds with the Cas9 protein.
  • This follows another patent given to UC Berkeley in June on methods to use CRISPR-cas9.
  • The patents cover the composites used by CRISPR-Cas9 within human, plant, animal and bacteria cells.
  • Both allow the use of strands of RNA "that can be shorter than naturally-occurring RNA components. This allows them to be more easily used and, therefore, is a form often preferred," Penhoet says.

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