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Patent Issued for Crispr-Edited Viruses in Microbiome


Crispr editing with Cas9 enzyme (Broad Institute, NIH)

3 Oct. 2022. A biotechnology company developing gene-edited therapies for bacterial infections in the gut received a U.S. patent for viruses engineered as treatments. Eligo Bioscience says the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO granted patent number 11,452,765 to inventors at Rockefeller University in New York for their Crispr technology with engineered viruses, licensed exclusively to the company.

Eligo Bioscience, based in Paris, designs engineered bacteriophage viruses that are natural enemies of bacteria. Bacteriophages, or phages, are viruses that infect and destroy bacteria with lysis, a process for breaking through outer cell membranes. The company says it genetically edits phage viruses with Crispr, short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, to precisely target disease-bearing bacteria in the gut, bypassing beneficial bacteria in the microbiome. Eligo says RNA guiding the gene-editing payloads finds matching RNA sequences in the bacterial community, then unleashes the editing enzymes to break up the bacterial DNA. Gut microbes not matching the targeted RNA are left alone.

The patent, issued on 27 September 2022 covers techniques for reducing disease-causing or antibiotic-resistant bacteria found mixed with healthy or beneficial bacteria in the gut, using Crispr to target the precise DNA sequences for attack. The company says the new patent is the latest of three documents protecting its intellectual property, based on research at Rockefeller University on using Crispr to find and destroy harmful bacteria in the gut. The earlier two documents cover genetically modified phagemids, circular non-replicated DNA molecules called plasmids found in phage viruses, while the latest patent applies to replicable engineered phage viruses.

Patents released to academic and not-for-profit labs

Eligo Bio and Snipr Biome, a biotechnology company in Copenhagen are embroiled in a patent dispute going back to 2020. Snipr Biome is also developing Crispr-edited phage viruses to attack antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as E. coli in the gut, among patients with blood-related cancers. Science & Enterprise reported in April 2022 on an early-stage clinical trial testing the safety of Snipr Biome’s gene-edited phage viruses in healthy volunteers. In Dec. 2021, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board at USPTO ruled that Snipr Biome interfered with Eligo’s patents first granted to Rockefeller University, indicating that five of Snipr Bio’s patents benefited unfairly from the university’s prior inventions.

“Each additional patent granted in this family, which has the earliest priority date in the field of Crispr-based killing of prokaryotes,” says Eligo Bioscience CEO Xavier Duportet, referring to single-cell organisms with a nucleus such as bacteria, in a company statement released through Cision, “further strengthens Eligo’s dominant patent position. Eligo is definitively a key partner to any entity intending to use Crispr to kill bacteria.”

For its part, Snipr Biome announced today it’s making available its patent portfolio of Crispr-based technologies to edit prokaryotes to academic and not-for-profit research labs without a written license. The company says this release covers more than 20 patents applied to technologies for cancer and immunology therapies.

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