Opposition in Australia to the grant of patent application to the Carnegie Institution of Washington in relation to the discovery of RNAi has been withdrawn. This was announced by the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The opposition was originally filed by Benitec, an Australian biotechnogy company, in November 2004. Announcement of the withdrawal will be published in Australia's Official Journal of Patents on August 3, 2006.
Gary Kowalczyk, Carnegie's director of administration and finance, remarked: "The work by Drs. Mello, Fire, and others is widely recognized as the seminal intellectual property in the field of RNAi, and we are pleased that the process of granting a patent in Australia will now move forward. We look forward to companies in Australia licensing this intellectual property, and anticipate similar developments in other countries in the future."
The patent, known popularly as the Fire and Mello patent, was first granted in the United States by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2003. Additional patent rights in the United States and elsewhere are pending. To date, the Carnegie Institution, acting upon behalf of itself and the University of Massachusetts Medical School under an interinstitutional agreement, has granted approximately 50 non-exclusive licenses to companies using this invention.
The patent covers a process by which ribonucleic acid (RNA), the cellular material responsible for the transmission of genetic information, can silence a targeted gene within a living cell. The process, called RNA interference (RNAi), can shut down disease-causing genes or direct researchers to pathways for effective drug development.