Models of Technology Transfer for Genome-Editing Technologies

Gregory D. Graff, Jacob S. Sherkow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Many of the fundamental inventions of genome editing, including meganucleases, zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), and CRISPR, were first made at universities and patented to encourage commercial development. This gave rise to a diversity of technology transfer models but also conflicts among them. Against a broader historical and policy backdrop of university patenting and special challenges concerning research tools, we review the patent estates of genome editing and the diversity of technology transfer models employed to commercialize them, including deposit in the public domain, open access contracts, material transfer agreements, nonexclusive and exclusive licenses, surrogate licenses, and aggregated licenses. Advantages are found in this diversity, allowing experimentation and competition that we characterize as a federalism model of technology transfer. A notable feature of genome editing has been the rise and success of third-party licensing intermediaries. At the same time, the rapid pace of development of genome-editing technology is likely to erode the importance of patent estates and licensing regimes and may mitigate the effect of overly broad patents, giving rise to new substitutes to effectuate commercialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-534
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 31 2020


  • technology transfer
  • licenses
  • patents
  • genome editing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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