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Since the last CRISPR update there have been some developments regarding this new genome-editing technique. Leading scientists in the field (Baltimore et al (2015)) met in Napa, California at a bioethics conference organised by the Innovative Genomics Initiative (IGI) to discuss CRISPR policy and make discussion of this topic more visible to and inclusive of doctors, social scientists and the public. They pinpoint four recommendations to be put into immediate action:

  1. Strong discouragement of “any attempts at germline genome modification for clinical application in humans, while societal, environmental, and ethical implications of such activity are discussed among scientific and governmental organizations”.
  2. Creation of forums of experts in science and ethics to discuss the potentials and risks of this technology.
  3. Transparent research to gain a better understanding of how CRISPR works.
  4. Creation of a “globally representative group of developers and users of genome engineering technology […] to recommend policies”.

I noticed that Feng Zhang of MIT was not a co-author of this paper (and neither was Emmanuelle Charpentier, to my surprise), but maybe this is because he is now or will soon be involved in a “winner-take-all” patent dispute. At the moment, Zhang (and MIT/Broad Institute?) own the rights to CRISPR and claim that they invented the technology first/were the first to make it work. However, their patent application was filed half a year after the Doudna/Charpentier patent in 2012. So now the University of California in Berkeley (where Doudna works) and the University of Vienna (where Charpentier worked) set up a so-called patent interference request and if they are successful they will own CRISPR rights entirely, leaving Zhang with nothing. The whole process is summarised here, from where I also copied this figure, showing the number of papers published on CRISPR in the past ten years:

crispr paper numbers


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