CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a gene-editing technology, has set a record by reaching clinics from the research laboratory in a very short time, as NIH’s Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee has approved the first clinical trial of the technology in the U.S. for coming June. The trial investigators have proposed to exploit this technology to help boost cancer therapies relying on enlisting a patient’s T cells for curing the disease.

The indications that are to be investigated include melanoma, multiple myeloma, and sarcoma, and patients whose cancers have stopped responding to therapies will be enrolled. Investigators will first remove patients’ T cells, and then propose to carry out three modifications in the T cells prior to re-infusing them. Out of the three modifications, one includes expression of an affinity-enhanced T-cell receptor (TCR) that recognizes a naturally processed peptide shared by the cancer antigens NY-ESO-1 and LAGE-1. The customized TCR will be inserted into cells using a virus. CRISPR will be used to disable the existing TCR to focus the altered cells on targeting tumors instead of other non-tumor targets.

Meanwhile, we are also a witness to the patent war that is being waged between publicly held Intellia Therapeutics and CRISPR Therapeutics. At stake is whether Feng Zhang, a professor at the Broad Institute and MIT, came up with using CRISPR-Cas9 technology to edit genetic code before the team of Jennifer Doudna at UC Berkeley and Emmanuelle Charpentier of Umeå University in Sweden.

The dispute involves three biotech companies Editas Medicine ($EDIT), which has an exclusive license to Zhang’s intellectual property, CRISPR Therapeutics and Intellia Therapeutics, companies co-founded by Doudna.

It can be thus seen that the market scenario is turning out to be quite eventful for the CRISPR Technology, and its dispute regarding who owns the right to the breakthrough gene editing technology. Its anyone’s guess on who might win, as a lot of money is riding on the patent battle. Whoever owns the rights, owns much of the money that will come out of meds approved in the future using this technology.

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CRISPR Makes It to the Clinic