The European Patent Office (EPO) has issued a “Notice of Intention to Grant” for the patent Application of Merck (MilliporeSigma). It covers the company’s CRISPR technology used in a genomic integration method for eukaryotic cells. A related patent was already approved in Australia  and now Merck expects positive outcomes in other countries as well.
The term CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) often is used for the so-called CRISPR-Cas9 system, which can be programmed to target specific sections of the genetic code and to edit DNA at precise locations. With Merck’s CRISPR genomic integration technology, scientists can replace a disease-associated mutation with a beneficial or functional sequence. The method is important for the creation of disease models and gene therapy. The method can also be used to insert transgenes for basic research, e.g., to label endogenous proteins for visual tracking within cells.
Merck was the first company to offer custom biomolecules globally for genome editing (TargeTron™ RNA-guided group II introns, CompoZr™ zinc finger nucleases). In collaboration with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, UK, Merck was also the first company to manufacture arrayed CRISPR libraries covering the entire human genome.
This patent application is one of Merck’s multiple CRISPR patent filings since 2012. In May 2017, Merck introduced an alternative CRISPR genome-editing method called proximal CRISPR (termed proxy-CRISPR) . Unlike other systems, the proxy-CRISPR technique allows cutting of previously unreachable cell locations, making CRISPR more efficient, flexible, and specific.
- Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
 Fuqiang Chen, Gregory D. Davis, Qiaohua Kang, Scott W. Knight, Patent AU2017204031 (A1), 2017-07-06.
 Fuqiang Chen, Xiao Ding, Yongmei Feng, Timothy Seebeck, Yanfang Jiang, Gregory D. Davis, Targeted activation of diverse CRISPR-Cas systems for mammalian genome editing via proximal CRISPR targeting, Nature Communic. 2017, 8. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14958