CRISPR patent hanging in the balance

After opposition by Testbiotech: ethical boundaries could be strengthened

3. December 2021

3 December 2021 / The European Patent Office (EPO) held discussions on a CRISPR/Cas patent (EP 3401400) from 29 November until 1 December without coming to a final decision. The Nobel Prize laureates, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, are named among the inventors of the patent.

Testbiotech filed this opposition because of ethical concerns: the patent claims encompass interventions in the human germline and human zygotes. There were some signs during the hearing that these claims might need to be corrected. However, a decision will not be taken before 21 February 2022, when the hearing will be continued.

Testbiotech is warning about the high expectations to make a profit that can go along with patents. The ethical questions triggered by such expectations can touch issues that go far beyond patent law. For example, several stakeholders in countries such as Germany are requesting an easing of legal protections in regard to human embryos.

The expected profits also may cause consequences for the environment. Currently, in Europe, many patents covering gene scissor applications on plants, animals and microorganisms are being filed and granted. At the same time, pressure from institutions and companies which file these patents is growing on political decision-makers to fast-track market approvals for genetically engineered organisms.

Christoph Then, Tel + 49 (0)151 54638040,

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