Media Coverage 7/31/17

With possibly hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, UC appealed a February decision by the US Patent Office concerning the gene-editing technology CRISPR. UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna and a collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, were the first to utilize the technology, but researchers at the Harvard- and MIT-affiliated Broad Institute were the first to show how the technique can be used on the type of cells found in humans. The winter ruling allowed patents from both parties to stand, as the US Patent Office found UC’s more general claim was not infringed upon by the Broad Institute’s narrower claim. That decision could mean an enormous amount of licensing revenue is split between the parties. Last Tuesday, UC filed an appeal arguing that the Broad Institute’s patent claim is a clear extension of Doudna’s work. A similar legal tussle is ongoing in Europe. Meanwhile, an LA Times columnist noted Doudna’s misgivings about the technology’s potential. In a dream, Doudna says she envisioned being asked about the technology’s power by Adolf Hitler.

In other news, UC Davis’s new chancellor, Gary May, takes the reins this Tuesday, though ousted Chancellor Linda Katehi will also return to the faculty with a $318,000 9-month salary. UC Irvine has elicited criticism for rescinding 500 admissions offers due to missing paperwork and poor senior grades. The campus acknowledged it was being stricter than usual, which critics allege is driven by higher-than-expected enrollment.

CRISPR

7/26 – UC Berkeley fights back over epic loss in CRISPR verdict (SJMN): If UC wins its appeal, the issue will return to the patent office for another review.

7/26 – Ding, ding, ding! CRISPR patent fight enters next round (Science): The article downplays UC’s chance of a victory.

7/21 – Column: CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna struggles with the ethical implications of what she has wrought (LATimes): Doudna recently released a book about the history of the technology’s creation and her concerns about its future.

Other News

7/28 – UC Davis’ Linda Katehi returns to teaching, but she’ll be paid like a chancellor (SacBee): The article notes it is not clear whether Katehi will teach this fall.

7/25 – Press Release: Chancellor May Takes Office Aug. 1 (UCDavis): May comes to Davis from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

7/28 – UC Irvine is under fire for rescinding 500 admission offers two months before fall term begins (LATimes): The article notes UCI has encouraged impacted students to file appeals.

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Media Coverage 4/16/17

The UC system settled lawsuits with Sujit Choudhry, former dean of UC Berkeley’s law school, and Tyann Sorrell, a former assistant to Choudhry who accused him of sexual harassment. The deals were reached in March but not announced until Friday. As part of the settlements, Choudhry, who resigned as dean in 2016 amidst the scandal, will pay $50,000 to Sorrell’s lawyers and an additional $50,000 to a charity Sorrell will choose. Choudhry will be on an unpaid sabbatical through May 2018, retaining travel and research benefits. After that point, he will resign from the university. According to the Associated Press, “(UC) also will withdraw all disciplinary complaints against him, and will not be able to say he acted with sexual intent or posed a risk to faculty, students or staff.” In a comment to the AP, Sorrell’s attorney said, “This is just one more example of UC refusing to take sexual harassment seriously and once again offering a soft landing even after a finding of harassment.” The settlement ends a series of lawsuits and investigations that began after Choudhry began allegedly harassing Sorrell in 2014. After Sorrell complained that Choudhry kissed and hugged her, the university reportedly substantiated the claims and issued a temporary 10 percent pay cut to Choudhry. Sorrell subsequently sued the university, arguing that the punishment was too light. Choudhry also sued the university, in part claiming the school had discriminated against him.

In related news, the university has narrowed its search for Choudhry’s successor to three candidates: Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine’s law school; Laura Gómez, a law professor and interim dean of UCLA’s College Division of Social Sciences; and Kimberly Yuracko, a law professor at Northwestern University. Elsewhere, UC has appealed a U.S. patent ruling concerning CRISPR. If the ruling stands, UC would likely share licensing rights to the gene-editing technology with the Broad Institute.

4/15 – Harassment accuser condemns UC Berkeley deal (AP): The article quotes Sorrell stating, “This deal insults all who suffer harassment at the hands of those with power and privilege.”

4/12 – Search committee for new Berkeley Law dean narrows in on 3 candidates (DailyCal): In contrast to UC Berkeley’s recently completed search for its next chancellor, the three law dean finalists were invited to public events.
4/13 – University of California files appeal over CRISPR patents (Reuters): The wire service report offers an overview of the CRISPR legal saga.
4/13 – Why the University of California Is Appealing the CRISPR Patent Decision (Atlantic): The Atlantic highlights the high financial stakes of the appeal.
Also see UC Berkeley’s statement

Media Coverage 04/02/17

A ruling on March 23 by the European Patent Office is good news for Berkeley. According to Science, the office ruled in Berkeley’s favor concerning a fight over licensing rights to the technology popularly known as CRISPR, announcing its intent to grant Berkeley a patent covering all of the technology’s applications. In February, the US Patent and Trademark Office ruled that Berkeley would have to share a patent for the gene-editing technology with the MIT and Harvard-affiliated Broad Institute. A Berkeley scientist, Jennifer Doudna, and her collaborator were the first to use the technology to edit the genes of prokaryotic cells. Shortly after, a scientist at the Broad Institute used the technology on eukaryotic cells, the type of cells found in animals and plants. Berkeley had asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to deny the Broad Institute’s application for a patent, but the office ruled the Broad application’s more narrow definition, which only covers the use of the technology in eukaryotic cells, could stand. The Berkeley application, which is still under review in the US, will apply to CRISPR technology more widely. As a result, any revenue from medical applications in the US, which is speculated to be in the billions of dollars, would likely be shared between the two patent holders. Science reports the Broad Institute is likely to challenge the European ruling, which would cover the technology’s use in about 40 countries, while Berkeley is also likely to continue fighting the US ruling.

In other news, the UC system saw its first drop in applications from international students in 12 years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The article argues that the one percent drop from last year is driven by the election of President Donald Trump, noting that the decrease in applications from Mexico and nations with large Muslim populations were 30 and 10 percent, respectively. In The Atlantic, a right-leaning writer wrote a lengthy piece criticizing UC for spending $1 million on its investigation into misconduct by former UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. Also, a planned visit to Berkeley by Ann Coulter has raised fears of violent protests. The event is co-sponsored by an organization that promotes discussion across the political spectrum.

3/27 – Europe says University of California deserves broad patent for CRISPR (Science): The article quotes a patent expert who advocates for the two sides to work out a deal. According to the article:

Cook-Deegan (from Arizona State) long has advocated that the public would benefit most if UC and the Broad reached a peace treaty and agreed to share, through what’s known as a cross-license agreement, in the CRISPR spoils. The new decision, he says, “further emphasizes the need for a cross-licensing deal, so folks can have some sense of what they can do and sell without getting sued, and from whom they need to get licenses.”

You can read UC Berkeley’s press release on the matter here. To brush up on the February ruling, click here for coverage from the LA Times.

4/1 – UC sees 1st drop in international applicants in more than decade (SF Chronicle): The article notes there is a precedent for US foreign policy impacting international applications:

The last time undergraduates from around the world shied away from UC, the United States had just led a multinational invasion of Iraq in 2003. The war coincided with a plunge in international interest in UC campuses and other American universities in 2004 and 2005 that even post-9/11 security crackdowns had failed to achieve.

3/31 – Commentary: Spending $1 Million to Get Rid of a Single Bureaucrat (The Atlantic): The right-leaning author recounts the Katehi story and criticizes UC for spending $1 million on its investigation.

3/29 – Planned Ann Coulter Visit To UC Berkeley Has Organizers Fearing Another Backlash (CBS): The article notes concerns that the event will result in protests similar to those which prevented right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus.

Curious how the right-wing media is covering the Coulter news? Here’s a link to Breitbart’s take, which focuses on the violence which prevented Yiannopoulos (a former Breitbart editor) from speaking. Surprisingly, the article, much like UC Berkeley, seems to blame the violence not on students but outsider groups. The article also notes UC Berkeley’s history in the Free Speech Movement.

 

Media Coverage 2/17/17

With the state budget slowly taking shape and two campuses (likely) nearing official announcements concerning their next leaders, it was a slow news week for UC. The big headline concerned a patent fight between Berkeley and MIT/Harvard. Despite an upbeat press release from Berkeley, most media outlets are portraying the decision as a win for the east coast universities. The most likely outcome moving forward is that Berkeley’s claim to CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology will be shared with the two private institutions. Also, the LAO offered its analysis of higher education funding to the Legislature, suggesting that “UC’s Academic Excellence initiative lacks clear objectives and detail. If UC is unable to provide sufficient justification for this initiative, we recommend redirecting the associated funding to higher priorities.”

2/15 – UC Berkeley Suffers Big Loss in Patent Fight (LATimes): Despite a sunny press release from UC Berkeley, the university faced a setback in a patent battle over CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology. A Berkeley scientist and collaborator first used the technology, successfully editing the genes of prokaryotic cells. However, shortly after, a scientist at the MIT and Harvard-affiliated Broad Institute successfully used the technology on eukaryotic cells, namely the cells found in animals and plants. Because the Broad patent application was relatively more narrow, applying only to the technology’s application to eukaryotic cells, it was approved before the Berkeley application, which, if approved, will apply to the CRISPR-Cas9 technology more broadly. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board this week decided to allow both patents to coexist, despite objections from Berkeley. The decision could be appealed, or future applications of the technology could be required from both parties.

Read the UC Berkeley press release here.

More coverage: Daily Cal | NYT | Nature

2/16 – LAO: Higher Education Analysis (LAO): The LAO offered its analysis of budget requests from the state’s higher education systems. Note the below about UC:

Second, UC’s Academic Excellence initiative lacks clear objectives and detail. If UC is unable to provide sufficient justification for this initiative, we recommend redirecting the associated funding to higher priorities. Finally, the Legislature faces two other significant UC decisions in the coming year: (1) whether to use Proposition 56 funding to replace or augment existing funding for graduate medical education, and (2) whether to allow UC to increase nonresident enrollment in 2017‑18.

2/14 – Livermore: UC admission at risk for charter students (EastBayTimes): UC Berkeley informed Livermore Valley Charter Prep that its seniors may not qualify for admission because of the high school’s accreditation woes.