Getting credit in CRISPR: These days the major discoveries lie waiting in the details, meaning that any one lab is unlikely to shed all the necessary light on a complex phenomenon
Editas Medicine, a leading genome editing company, today announced that they have entered into an exclusive joint license agreement with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Harvard University to access intellectual property and technology related to the CRISPR/Cas9 and TALE genome editing systems. The license allows broad utilization of the technology developed by Editas founders, Feng Zhang, Ph.D., of the Broad Institute, and George Church, Ph.D., and David R. Liu, Ph.D., both of Harvard University, for the prevention and treatment of human disease.
Fast forward to December 2015, and The Scientist has a post Credit for CRISPR: A Conversation with George Church with text:
Why that happened isn’t readily apparent, said Doudna. “Looking at peer-reviewed publications, George Church published a paper at the same time in the same issue of Science magazine as Feng Zhang on using CRISPR technology in human cells,” she told The Scientist. “It’s very clear what’s in the scientific record.”
That CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing was a larger collaborative effort that extends beyond Doudna, Charpentier, and Zhang is an issue that others have spoken and written about. An economic manifestation of the debate, in the form of a patent dispute, has even sprung up within the oft-cited CRISPR trinity. Then there are the prizes. In 2014, Doudna and Charpentier were awarded a $3 million Breakthrough Prize. And last year Thomson Reuters predicted a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the duo. (The 2015 honors went to a trio of DNA repair researchers instead.)
Meanwhile, the media continues to perpetuate the condensed CRISPR origin story when mentioning the technology’s evolution in the space of a sentence or two. Part of that oversimplification is rooted in the fact that most modern life-science researchers aren’t working to uncover broad biological truths. These days the major discoveries lie waiting in the details, meaning that any one lab is unlikely to shed all the necessary light on a complex phenomenon—much less on how to adopt that phenomenon for human purposes—in isolation. That reality does little to allay what is probably a fundamental human urge to pin a few names and faces on major breakthroughs.
But how do we fix a problem of public perception that stems from the very nature of scientific discovery in the modern age? Doudna had a suggestion. “I think it’s great that journalists look into this and explain the process of science,” she said. “Things don’t happen overnight; they happen through a process of investigation. And very typically there are multiple laboratories that are working in an area, and it’s almost universally true.”
The Scientist briefly alludes to the patent dispute, but does not mention the EDITAS fall-out.
IPBiz has been covering the CRISPR saga in several posts: