The U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled yesterday in favor of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the initial legal step of a high stakes battle over who will control the intellectual property linked to CRISPR, the powerful genome-editing tool. Last year, the University of California requested “interference” from the patent board, contending that a team of scientists it represented invented the technology and that the Broad researchers piggybacked on their discovery.

In a landmark paper published in Science on 28 June 2012, Jennifer Doudna (UC Berkeley), Emmanuelle Charpentier (then of Umeå University in Sweden), and their colleagues announced their discovery that CRISPR, an immune system used by bacteria, could serve as a genome-editing tool in any type of cell.  But the Doudna/Charpentier team at that point had only used CRISPR to cut DNA in test tube studies.  On 3 January 2013, the Broad Institute’s Feng Zhang reported his team’s success using CRISPR to cut DNA in human cells, opening the door for the tool to be used in medicine.