UC Berkeley announced Tuesday it received a patent for a single-molecule guide RNA that can be used with the Cas-9 enzyme by the gene-editing tool CRISPR in plants, bacteria and mammalian cells.

Why it matters: Discovering new methods of making CRISPR's gene editing more precise are key to its future success in modifying crops and treating diseases. But, there's also a race among institutions — especially between UC and the Broad Institute — to own CRISPR patents that are potentially worth billions, per Reuters.

Background: CRISPR can use different enzymes, most often Cas9, to target specific genes for editing, but there remain safety concerns, as it's been shown to sometimes cause unwanted deletions, edit the wrong genes or move genes around. Guide RNAs can be used to locate the proper DNA sequence that needs to be cut.

By the numbers: This is UC Berkeley's third CRISPR patent and they expect a fourth to be issued soon.

"This is another foundational patent that reflects the significant contribution that [Jennifer] Doudna, [Emmanuelle] Charpentier, and their team brought to the field," Eldora Ellison, lead patent strategist on CRISPR matters for UCB, tells Axios.

Details, per Ellison:

  • U.S. Patent Number 10,227,611, covers single-molecule guide RNAs that can be used in every cell type, not only plants and bacteria but also mammalian ones.
  • It's co-owned by the University of California, the University of Vienna and Charpentier.
  • This patent was not involved in the previous interference proceeding before the USPTO Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

Go deeper: UC Berkeley team awarded second CRISPR-Cas9 patent

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