Pioneer Policy Lecture
Location: 368A Heady Hall
Description: Gregory Graff
“Intellectual Property Control and Licensing of CRISPR-Cas9 and Implications for the Development of Gene Edited Crops”
Abstract: In recent years a powerful technology platform for gene editing has emerged based on clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeats of DNA (called CRISPR) together with compatible nuclease proteins (such as Cas9). Most of the key components of this technology platform have been patented and licensed under various conditions by the inventors and their academic institutions or companies. In the midst of intense competition over control of this technology for human therapeutic applications, control for agricultural and food applications have also been contested and negotiated. Key characteristics of the resulting patent landscape—including the identities of patent holders, the coverage of the patents over different technical components, and the national and region distribution of those filings—all influence access to the technology platform. The relative importance of patents for control of the technology depends on regulatory requirements for the technology. We explore these factors for agricultural and food applications, analyze the emerging patent landscape for CRISPR-Cas9, and compare it with previous breakthroughs in agricultural biotechnology. We argue that the use of patents per se should not unduly restrict access to the CRISPR-Cas technology, but use of the technology platform in further research and development for agriculture and food will depend upon how the different parties controlling key patents make the platform available. Terms for research use are detailed, as well as terms of a recently announced licensing mechanism and for commercial agricultural applications, agreed upon jointly by the leading commercial (Corteva Agsciences including Dow and DuPont Pioneer) and academic institutions (the Broad Institute, including MIT and Harvard). Implications of the resulting IP-regulatory complex for academic research, technology transfer, and commercial development of agricultural applications of CRISPR are explored.