By John Leavitt, Ph.D., Nerac Analyst
Originally Published: June 1st, 2015
The Tuschl II priority application describing the invention of siRNA for therapeutic gene silencing assigned to Max-Planck Institute was filed in the European Patent Office to establish a priority date of the December 1, 2000. This filing date indicates that Thomas Tuschl and his two colleagues, Elbashir and Lendeckel, invented siRNA before that date. The Tuschl I (a second patent family) priority date was March 30, 2000. The Tuschl I interfering RNA invention assigned to Max-Planck, Whitehead Institute, MIT, and UMass vaguely described siRNA in comparison with the Tuschl II invention which described dsRNA molecules of precise size with the required 3’-overhanging nucleotides. Max-Planck agreed to allow one Tuschl II experiment to be placed in the specification of a Tuschl I application. It was because of negligent management of the Tuschl I invention assignment in early 2000 by the Whitehead Institute that Philip Zamore, one of the four Tuschl I inventors, managed to assign his rights to the invention to the University of Massachusetts (UMass) in April 2000. On the record in court, this mistake led Judge Saris to call the Whitehead Technology Licensing office staff “airheads” in dismissing the assignment issue because, at the time of the initiation of the lawsuit by Max-Planck and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals in 2009, the statutes of limitation had expired on this assignment issue.