Supreme Court set to hear landmark gene patent case
On Monday, the Supreme Court will consider whether or not companies can own patents on genes. The case they will take on specifically involves biotech company Myriad Genetics and it’s two patents for BRCA1 and BRCA2, genes that are linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Myriad’s patents currently allow them to prevent any other institution from screening these genes for patients without paying a licencing fee, thus allowing them to charge $4000 for the diagnostic test, truly outrageous considering that we can now sequence an entire human genome (20,000 genes) for a similar sum.
Myriad’s lawyers will be making the argument “that “isolated DNA” is not the same as the natural DNA, and that this distinction allows companies to patent it,” an argument that was upheld in a lower appeals court. Many consider this argument to be ridiculous, isolating DNA does not create a synthetic/artificial molecule, our bodies do it all the time when creating proteins.
There are many, many issues at play when it comes to gene patents, so I’m linking some articles, resources, video below, and I encourage everyone to watch this case closely at this pivotal point in our medico/legal history!
Point of View: PBS Documentary In the Family
Slate: Are your genes patented?
NY Times: DNA Project aims to make public a companies data on cancer genes