Canada grants CRISPR nickase patent to Merck

The patent covers foundational genome-editing technology that improves CRISPR’s ability to fix diseased genes but not healthy ones

The Canadian Patent Office has granted Merck's patent application directed to the use of paired CRISPR nickases in eukaryotic cells. Similar patents were granted in Australia and Europe in late 2018.

Merck is a science and technology company with a focus on genome editing. “The patent marks another advancement in the safety of CRISPR-enabled therapeutics, covering technology that improves CRISPR's ability to fix diseased genes while not affecting healthy ones," said Udit Batra, member of the Merck Executive Board and CEO of Life Science.

This latest patent covers paired nickases, which drive specificity through a highly flexible and efficient approach to reduce off-target effects.

Paired nickases are two CRISPR nickases targeted to a common gene target that work together by nicking or cleaving opposite strands of a chromosomal sequence to create a double-stranded break. This process can include an exogenous or donor sequence for insertion in the same manner as Merck's CRISPR integration technology. 

In an effort to remain ethical, Merck 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.

The Germany company has also defined a clear operational position taking into account scientific and societal issues to inform promising therapeutic approaches for use in research and applications.

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