MIT Tech Review has a good article about the brewing intellectual property battle over CRISPR-Cas9 DNA editing. The ease with which human DNA (or that of any eukaryotic organism) can be edited with the genetic engineering technique is astonishing, and will undoubtedly lead to major breakthroughs. Unfortunately, both former collaborators Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier and now other experts in the field, including Feng Zhang, are getting caught up in a web of competing patent applications and VC-funded start up companies. There are lots of technical and scientific hurdles yet to be solved, but the pace of development is shockingly fast. Perhaps too fast for our patent system to keep up.
In fact, given the fast clock speed of the field, and the myriad of ways in which the technology can be applied to human health problems, one wonders if the basic enabling technology shouldn’t just be cross-licensed among all the major players. We all might benefit more rapidly.