A licensing agreement will allow GE non-exclusive access to the Broad Institute’s CRISPR gene expression patents for preclinical research.
The Broad Institute, part of MIT and Harvard, was the first organisation to be granted a patent for the CRISPR tool after its discovery by Feng Zhang. The license granted to GE will complement GE’s existing CRISPR-Cas tech, launched in October and named Dharmacon Edit-R Gene Engineering System.
The Dharmacon platform can create gene knock-outs in cells within one to two weeks, as opposed to the one-month timescale of other methods.
Michael Deines, General Manager of Dharmacon, part of GE Healthcare Life Sciences’ told us the Broad Institute IP adds hundreds of patents and pending patent claims to the Dharmacon offering. “The licensed technology most immediately widens our development options in cloned gene editing tools in which a targeting element called single guide RNAs (sgRNAs) can be expressed in the target cells.”
What is CRISPR?
CRISPR – short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats – is a tool for gene editing that can be faster and more precise than traditional knock-out options.
The technology uses a short sequence of RNA to guide an endonuclease to modify the genome.
Horizon Discovery, which also uses CRISPR, told us “Because it’s a short sequence you can design pretty easily against any part of the genome, which makes it incredibly flexible and available to pretty much all of the research community.”
With CRISPR, scientists can knock-out genes, as with RNA interference methods, but also, uniquely, knock-in genes.
“If you know from patient data that a high proportion of patients with a certain type of cancer have a certain mutation, you can recreate that mutation in a human cell line using CRISPR, and you have a model of the patient in a test tube. You can compare that with the original cell line which doesn’t have mutations to look for drug effectiveness,” Horizon’s senior scientist Chris Thorne told us.
While therapeutic uses fall outside the agreement with Broad, GE plans to use the CRISPS IP to develop Dharmacon “genome engineering toolsets” combined with its existing RNAi and gene expression portfolio as a service offering to biopharma research companies.