Thursday, February 23, 2012

Two Newly Issued Meganuclease Patents Immediately Challenged by Cellectis in Declaratory Judgment Action

In an earlier post, I reported on patent infringement litigation between Cellectis and Precision BioSciences, two companies commercializing engineered I-CreI meganucleases as tools for specifically cleaving a targeted recognition site in double-stranded DNA.

On February 21, the patent office issued two new patents directed towards modified I-CreI meganucleases (8,119,361 and 8,119,381), and on the same day Cellectis filed declaratory judgment action against Precision seeking to establish that these patents are invalid and not infringed. These patents are continuations of 8,021,867, which is the subject of another declaratory judgment action filed by Cellectis last year. On their face, the patents indicate that they are assigned to Duke University, but Cellectis alleges that Precision is the actual owner of the patents. The infringement litigation between the parties began when Cellectis sued Precision for allegedly infringing Cellectis’s patent 7,897,372. The lawsuits have all been filed in Delaware District Court.

On Feb 21, Precision also filed a case in the Eastern District of North Carolina asserting the two newly issued patents against Cellectis.

Based on a quick reading of the claims, it appears that both the Cellectis patent and the Duke/Precision patents are directed towards rationally engineered variants of the I-CreI meganuclease with altered target specificity. The Cellectis and Duke/Precision claims focus on modification at different amino acid residues in protein, but it looks as though there would be substantial overlap in the claim coverage of the Precision and Duke/Precision claims. In particular, the claims all recite “at least” one amino acid substitution as specified by the claim, but all are written to encompass I-CreI meganucleases with additional amino acid modifications, so a I-CreI meganuclease modified at several locations in the amino acid chain could fall within the scope of patents owned by both parties.


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