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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.

Go deeper:

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UN poll: Most see climate change as global emergency amid pandemic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) fronts a Fridays For Future protest at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm in September. Photo: Jonathan Nacksrtrand/AFP via Getty Images

64% of people from around the world say climate change is a global emergency, a United Nations poll published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: It's biggest global survey on climate change ever conducted, with some 1.2 million participants from 50 countries — including the U.S. where 65% of those surveyed view climate change as an emergency.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.