Imagine a world free from disease, where crops can grow and thrive despite environmental deficiencies and defective genes can be easily and affordably corrected. That world may exist sooner than we think, thanks to a new technology called CRISPR.
The CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technique has recently been proven to give scientists the ability to make specific changes to an organism’s genetic makeup by simply altering, adding, or removing sections of a DNA sequence. It's a controversial technology that has many disputing its overall safety and morality, while recognizing its potential to wipe out disease, delete undesirable traits, and transform entire industries like healthcare and agriculture. The problem is that no one can seem to agree on who invented this revolutionary technology.
In 2012, both Jennifer Doudna of U.C. Berkeley, in collaboration with Emmanuelle Charpentier of the University of Vienna, and Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard filed a patent covering numerous uses for the CRISPR technology. Though Doudna and Charpentier are first credited with demonstrating the applications of CRISPR as an editing tool in bacterial cell cultures, Zhang’s patent application was approved faster, granting him the first patent covering the technology.
Now, the two parties will fight it out in court to determine who the “true inventor” of this technology is. A decision is expected sometime early this year. “The idea that you would affect evolution is a very profound thing,” Doudna recently told the New York Times. “I really want to see this technology used to help people…It would be a shame if the I.P. situation would block that.”
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