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James R. Kasinger will take over as general counsel for CRISPR Therapeutics at a time when the company's fate depends on the biggest legal battle in the biotech industry.
The case involves the patent rights to CRISPR-Cas9, a technique that has the potential to transform the biotechnology and genetic engineering industries. The genome editing tool can splice DNA faster, cheaper, and more accurately than other existing methods.
Kasinger, a rising star in his own right, will have to get up to speed.
Tech to Biotech
Formerly with Moderna Therapeutics, another biotech company, Kasinger has a leg up in the industry. He has worked as a lawyer in biotech, technology, and life sciences for most of 20 years.
Before corporate counsel life, he was a partner at Goodwin Procter. He is a graduate from Boston College Law School and Wheaton College, both with honors.
CRISPER Therapeutics is a gene-editing company that bases its work on CRISPR-Cas9. The company focuses on research to treat life-threatening diseases.
CRISPR, Round Two
The gene-editing technique was developed in 2012, when the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and the University of Vienna's Emmanuelle Charpentier outlined how CRISPR-Cas9 could be used to edit genomes. Charpentier founded CRISPR Therapeutics.
A year later, the Broad Institute's Feng Zhang published a paper showing how the technique could be used to edit DNA in eukaryotic cells. The Broad Institute is partnered with both Harvard and MIT.
Berkeley and Broad filed for patent protection, but Broad's patent application was granted first. Berkeley initiated interference proceedings with the USPTO, who upheld Broad's patents in February. Berkeley filed an appeal.
"They have a patent on green tennis balls," Doudna said following the USPTO's ruling. "We will have a patent on all tennis balls. I don't think it really makes sense."