The revolutionary gene-editing technology, CRISPR, has raised numerous ethical, legal, and social concerns over its use. The technology is also subject to an increasing patent thicket that raises similar issues concerning patent licensing and research development. This essay reviews several of these challenges that have come to the fore since CRISPR’s development in 2012. In particular, the lucre and complications that have followed the CRISPR patent dispute may affect scientific collaboration among academic research institutions. Relatedly, universities’ adoption of “surrogate licensors” may also hinder downstream research. At the same time, research scientists and their institutions have also used CRISPR patents to ensure that the technology is used in an “ethical” manner. The review of these discussions concludes with several observations about what the CRISPR patent dispute can teach us, generally, about normative science and patents.
Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Vol. 4 (2017)