HomePress ReleasesMerck Receives Patent for Improved CRISPR Genome-Editing Method in Japan

Merck Receives Patent for Improved CRISPR Genome-Editing Method in Japan

News Release

  • Proxy-CRISPR technology provides solution to improve genome editing and advance new possibilities for research
  • Helps modify difficult-to-access regions of the genome, increasing genome coverage
  • Marks Merck’s second CRISPR patent in Japan and 38th CRISPR patent overall

Darmstadt, Germany, June 23, 2021 – Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced that the Japanese Patent Office has issued a formal notice allowing the company’s patent application for its proxy-CRISPR technology. This allowance marks Merck’s second CRISPR patent in Japan.

“This is our 38th patent for CRISPR overall, and as a leading innovator of gene-editing technology, we will continue to collaborate with scientists around the world to ensure they have the best gene-editing options to accelerate discovery of lifesaving therapies,” said Angela Myers, head of Gene Editing & Novel Modalities, Life Science, at Merck.

Proxy-CRISPR is a genome-editing technique that makes CRISPR more efficient, flexible, and specific by opening up the genome for modification of DNA. The technology helps scientists modify regions of the genome which are difficult to access.

Merck’s CRISPR patent portfolio includes granted patents in Australia, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Europe, Singapore, China, Japan, Israel, and South Korea. The company has proxy-CRISPR patents in Europe, Australia, the U.S., Japan, and Israel. Its other CRISPR-related patents are for technologies covering foundational as well as three alternative genome-editing methods.

To deploy the proxy-CRISPR method, two CRISPR systems are designed to target the genome in proximity to each other and work together. One CRISPR system opens a regional “door,” pushing away blocking chromatin proteins, while the other walks through it to find the exact location for modification. The proxy-CRISPR method’s use of two CRISPR binding events increases targeting precision - enabling distinction between identical target sequences within the same genome- a unique advantage over single CRISPR high-fidelity systems.

Merck has received patents for its CRISPR paired nickase technology (cleaving opposite strands of a chromosomal sequence to create a double-stranded break) in Australia, Canada, Singapore, South Korea, Israel, and Europe. Patents for the business’ CRISPR integration technology (chromosomal cutting of the sequence of eukaryotic cells and insertion of a DNA sequence) have been granted in Australia, the United States, Canada, Europe, Singapore, China, Israel, and South Korea. Merck offers licenses for its entire patent portfolio for all fields of use.

CRISPR technology is a core competency for Merck, which has 17 years of hands-on experience with genome editing spanning from discovery to manufacturing. Its experience in the genome-editing field has led to the most comprehensive portfolio of CRISPR and other advanced genomics technologies available anywhere, impacting every step of the workflow, from basic research to therapeutic delivery. Merck offers products and services for a range of applications, including gene knockout, targeted integration, and mutagenesis, and genetic screening libraries to support research in immunotherapeutics, oncology, and infectious disease, among other fields. Merck’s scientists continue to develop powerful, unique technologies that expand these applications and accelerate health-related research.

Merck recognizes that the growing potential of genome-editing technologies has led to scientific, legal, and societal concerns. Merck supports research with genome editing under careful consideration of ethical and legal standards. Merck’s parent company, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has established an independent, external Bioethics Advisory Panel to provide guidance for research in which its businesses are involved, including research on or using genome editing and has developed, defined, and transparently published a clear Genome-Editing Technology Principle taking into account scientific and societal issues to inform promising therapeutic approaches for use in research applications.

About Merck

Merck, a leading science and technology company, operates across healthcare, life science, and electronics. Around 58,000 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 – the company is everywhere. In 2020, Merck generated sales of € 17.5  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 Electronics.

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