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Synthego Preemptively Sues Agilent Technologies to Ward Off CRISPR Patent Infringement Allegations

This story has been updated to include a response from Agilent Technologies.

NEW YORK – Gene editing firm Synthego has sued Agilent Technologies in US federal court after Agilent allegedly tried to get the firm to license patents related to CRISPR synthetic guide RNAs.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Synthego asked for a judge to declare that its CRISPRevolution products do not infringe US Patent Nos. 10,900,034  and 10,337,001, both titled "Guide RNA with chemical modifications" and held by Agilent.

Such a declaration is necessary, Synthego said, because Agilent tried to get the company to license patents related to synthetic guide RNAs and "create[d] a reasonable apprehension it would pursue legal action against Synthego were Synthego not to acquire a license."

"We are confident that the patents in question lack innovation," Synthego said in a statement. "We will continue to provide uninterrupted support for the essential work of CRISPR researchers and therapeutic developers with the highest quality products and services that our customers have come to expect."

Agilent declined to comment.

Santa Clara, California-based Agilent has developed chemically modified guide RNAs for use in CRISPR genome editing in T cells and other cells. Synthego, based in Menlo Park, California, offers a variety of genome editing products, including synthetic guide RNAs, screening libraries, and even engineered cells and cell lines.

According to the complaint, Agilent Associate VP Thomas Redder sent Synthego a letter in June offering to license patents covering guide RNAs. Synthego alleged that in a subsequent email Redder said that if the firm did not respond by a certain deadline, the "process will likely be escalated to other, more formal, legalistic processes for managing [Agilent's] out-licensing programs and opportunities."

Synthego said that it asked for more time to conduct due diligence and alleged that Redder called the request "disappointing" and ultimately demanded that the company respond to a term sheet proposed by Agilent by Oct. 6.

Synthego's complaint said that because its products are used for purposes related to the development and submission of information to the US Food and Drug Administration, they do not infringe the patents under the safe harbor provisions of 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(1).

Synthego also asked the court to prevent Agilent from alleging infringement in the future and for attorneys' fees and expenses related to the case.

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