The development of new applications for the genome-editing tool CRISPR–Cas9 continued apace. On 28 October, a patient with lung cancer at West China Hospital in Chengdu became the first person to be treated with cells edited using CRISPR–Cas9. As part of a clinical trial, researchers disabled a gene that normally holds a cell’s immune system in check, in the hope that the edited cells would mount an immune response against the cancer. More cancer trials using treatments based on CRISPR–Cas9 are expected in the United States and China next year.
But the commercial landscape for CRISPR–Cas9 therapies remains uncertain. The battle over US patent rights to the gene-editing technique reached fever pitch after the US Patent and Trademark Office declared an ‘interference’ proceeding between two research teams in January. The proceeding, which could conclude early next year, aims to determine who first invented the technique. Each team applied for patents that could be crucial for commercial applications.
Meanwhile, research using CRISPR–Cas9 in human embryos expanded this year. It is a controversial area of research that has raised concerns about the potential for designer babies — but regulators in some countries have approved projects in this field. Teams in China, the United Kingdom and Sweden announced their intentions to use the technique to optimize its use in embryos and to study human development. Work in the United States is expected to follow, despite a prohibition on the use of federal funds to study human embryos or to modify human eggs or sperm.
From : http://www.nature.com/news/2016-in-news-the-science-events-that-shaped-the-year-1.21159