CpG Oligonucleotide Therapeutics - A History Lesson for CRISPR?

Craig Thomson and Cath Coombes report in (c)ipimedia.com

July 2017

When we look at the emerging and likely future battles being fought to establish dominance in the emerging field of CRISPR technologies, it may be
too easy to conclude that one has no frame of reference to help understand what the conclusion will likely be. However, as Harry S Truman said;
“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know”. There have, of course, been many emerging technologies that have been subject to an IP land-grab. One such instance that we will look at in this article relates to CpG oligonucleotides.

In the 19th century, a clinician called William B Coley successfully treated a number of patients suffering from cancer with bacterial lysates. It took many years to identify the basis for this therapy. In the 1980s, a team of researchers concluded that the ability for the lysates to treat cancer was derived from the nucleic acid content. It was not, however, until the 1990s that the full story began to emerge. Dr Kreig found that it was a specific structure within a bacterial nucleic acid that elicited a powerful immune response. That structure was a cytosine-guanine repeat, with an unmethylated cytosine, when provided with appropriate bases up and downstream from that repeat, ie CpG oligonucleotides. This discovery opened the doors to a new branch of immunotherapeutics and immune- adjuvants. 

A number of companies sought to exploit the emerging field of CpG oligonucleotides. Two of the companies that were amongst the first to rise to this challenge were Coley Pharmaceutical Group Inc. and Dynavax Technologies Corp. Both were able to raise considerable financial capital on the back of the excitement surrounding the potential for a new range of therapeutics and immune adjuvants derived from CpG oligonucleotides. Each armed with a full war-chest, they both set about laying down a considerable portfolio of patent applications and strategies for restricting the ability of the other to establish a useful monopoly in the field. Both parties wanted to dominate this emerging field.

Click here to view the full article in International Pharmaceutical Industry. (c)ipimedia.com