In this week's Science, intellectual property experts from Duke University and Arizona State University discuss the downsides of overly broad technology patents, using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing as a case study. They discuss the ongoing litigation between the University of California and the Broad Institute over inventorship of CRISPR, arguing that such patent battles are wasteful. And while the change in the US from a "first-to-invent" to a "first-to-file" patent system may help prevent such disputes, "inefficient races to file will persist — as will the question of what inventive territory the first filer is allowed to claim relative to subsequent filers," they write. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.
And in Science Translational Medicine, a team of Japanese scientists describes a new method for testing how genetic variants of unknown significance can influence cancer progression and treatment response. The so-called mixed-all-nominated-mutants-in-one — or MANO — method involves comparing cells growing in culture that express different variants, and was validated using known cancer driver and drug-resistance mutations. The researchers then applied it to 101 nonsynonymous epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutants and uncovered a number of mutations conferring resistance to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors, as well as some mutants that are resistant to all such inhibitors but are sensitive to the cancer drug cetuximab. "This method may become a foundation for the in vitro and in vivo assessment of variants of cancer-related genes and help customize cancer therapy for individual patients," the authors write.