China's dramatic progress in gene modification
Sep 4, 2019

China's dramatic progress in gene modification

One of the most valuable and emerging technologies that can bring major developments in medical investigations, industrial applications and even agriculture is a new genetic modification technology, CRISPR. While first steps for development of this technology was done by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna at the University of California, it has become a growing competition scene for giants universities such as Harvard, MIT and even many technological companies. Competitions are not limited to a specific country and have an international expanse. In this way, countries like China has been investing heavily for overtaking US and being the pioneer.

While researchers at the University of California, in collaboration with the University of Vienna, obtained their eleventh patent for CRISPR Technology, and MIT and Harvard universities’ research in CRISPR focuses on diagnostic applications and drug delivery systems, China has a burst in studies CRISPR in animals and adapted the results to various medical and industrial applications. It seems that this astonishing growth is going to lead the country in publication of research papers and patents in genetic modification field.

Investigations shows that the US, with 872 patent applications related to genetic modification, still outstrips China by 858 patents. The difference between these two countries and their admirable efforts will be more significant when we know that only 186 patents have been filed in with European countries.

A closer look to patent statistics in genetic modification will illustrate that China has overtaken the US in some areas, such as agriculture and industrial applications. Only considering number of patents and publications is not a good indicator for China’s progress path. Governmental supports for developing the related technologies is another important parameter that should be considered in this way. Jennifer Doudna, one of the leaders of CRISPR technology says: "This is a country and a culture that really values science and technology. Their government has put very serious money into it, and they’re walking the walk."

Traditionally, American universities have been the prime destination for scientists. However, it seems that condition is a little different in development CRISPR technology. In recent years, Chinese universities have invested heavily in this technology and have attracted many international scholars. Beijing University has even gone further and introduced a similar gene modification technology, called "LEAPER", which could bring new competition in the field. Due to potentials of gene modification technology and its widespread applications in industry, agriculture, and medicine, although CRISPR Technology has a very short age, but can be called as an important invention of the history.

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