Darmstadt, Germany, October 24, 2017 — Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced that the Canadian Patent Office has issued a “Notice of Allowance” for Merck’s patent application covering the company’s CRISPR technology used in a genomic-integration method for eukaryotic cells.
“Our patent portfolio continues to grow worldwide, extending protection for our unique CRISPR technology as we work with the global scientific community to find new treatments for diseases,” said Udit Batra, Member of the Merck Executive Board and CEO, Life Science. “This decision by the Canadian Patent Office is an important acknowledgement of Merck’s role in advancing genome editing.”
Merck also has patent filings for its insertion CRISPR method in the U.S., Brazil, China, India, Israel, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. The forthcoming Canadian patent, entitled “CRISPR-BASED GENOME MODIFICATION AND REGULATION,” covers chromosomal integration, or cutting of the chromosomal sequence of eukaryotic cells (such as mammalian and plant cells) and insertion of an external or donor DNA sequence into those cells using CRISPR. Scientists can replace a disease-associated mutation with a beneficial or functional sequence, a method important for creating disease models and gene therapy. Additionally, scientists can use the method to insert transgenes that label endogenous proteins for visual tracking within cells.
Once formally granted, the Canadian patent will extend the protection of Merck's CRISPR integration technology into North America for the first time, further strengthening the company's patent portfolio. The Australian Patent Office granted Merck its first CRISPR patent in June of 2017, followed by the grant of a European patent in September of 2017.
CRISPR genome-editing technology, which allows the precise modification of chromosomes in living cells, is advancing treatment options for some of the toughest medical conditions faced today. CRISPR applications are far-ranging —from identifying genes associated with cancer and rare diseases to reversing mutations that cause blindness.
With a 12-year history in the genome-editing field, Merck was the first company to offer custom biomolecules for genome editing globally (TargeTron™ RNA-guided group II introns and CompoZr™ zinc finger nucleases), driving adoption of these techniques by researchers all over the world. Merck was also the first company to manufacture arrayed CRISPR libraries covering the entire human genome, accelerating cures for diseases by allowing scientists to explore more questions about root causes.
In May 2017, Merck announced its alternative CRISPR genome-editing method, called proxy-CRISPR. Unlike other systems, Merck's proxy-CRISPR technique can cut previously unreachable genomic locations, making CRISPR more efficient, flexible and specific, and giving researchers more experimental options. Merck has filed several patent applications on its proxy-CRISPR technology, and those applications are just the latest of multiple CRISPR patent filings made by the company since 2012.
Merck recognizes the potential benefits of conducting properly defined research with genome editing because of the breakthrough therapeutic potential. Therefore, Merck supports research with genome editing under careful consideration of ethical and legal standards. The company has established the Merck Bioethics Advisory Panel to provide guidance for research in which Merck is involved, including research on or using genome editing.
Merck, a leading science and technology company, operates across healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 56,000 employees work to make a positive difference to millions of people’s lives every day by creating more joyful and sustainable ways to live. From advancing gene editing technologies and discovering unique ways to treat the most challenging diseases to enabling the intelligence of devices – Merck is everywhere. In 2018, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany generated sales of €14.8 billion in 66 countries.
Scientific exploration and responsible entrepreneurship have been key to Merck’s technological and scientific advances. This is how Merck has thrived since its founding in 1668. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed company. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the business sectors of Merck operate as EMD Serono in healthcare, MilliporeSigma in life science, and EMD Performance Materials.