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Supreme Court blocks patenting of genomic DNA

Good news today for those of us who care about copyright and intellectual property. 

Supreme Court blocks patenting of genomic DNA

Opens the door for widespread testing of cancer genes.

The US Supreme Court, in a nearly unanimous ruling (Scalia joined the majority, but only in part), has held that a piece of DNA that occurs naturally is not eligible for patenting. This means that any sequences that are normally present in the human genome—or that of any other organism—cannot be the subject of patent infringement.

The case grew out of patents held by Myriad Genetics, a company that has had a monopoly on testing for genetic defects in genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer. The genes in question, BRCA1 and BRCA2, were first isolated by scientists from the University of Utah, who then patented their sequences. The university later transferred the patents to Myriad, which developed further patents to cover more detailed aspects of the testing process.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court notes that the sequences of these genes are naturally present in every human cell—and simply cutting them out of the genome and isolating them from the cell does not change that fact. As a result, no matter how much work and ingenuity it took to first identify the genes, the sequences remain natural products. As such, they are not eligible for patenting.

The ruling does allow Myriad to retain some of its patents on the technical details of testing. Both of these genes are quite large, covering tens of thousands of bases of the genome. It’s often more convenient to convert the mature RNA transcript to what’s called a cDNA and then sequence the much-shorter cDNA. This process, the Court ruled, is patentable, as it transforms the genes from their natural state. That means Myriad retains a monopoly on the fastest and cheapest way of identifying mutations. However, due to the rapidly plunging costs of DNA sequencing technology, this advantage is relatively minor.””

Supreme Court: human genes not patentable  JUN 13 2013

“In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court ruled today that human genes cannot be patented.

The case involved Myriad Genetics Inc., which holds patents related to two genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, that can indicate whether a woman has a heightened risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said the genes Myriad isolated are products of nature, which aren’t eligible for patents.

The high court’s ruling was a win for a coalition of cancer patients, medical groups and geneticists who filed a lawsuit in 2009 challenging Myriad’s patents. Thanks to those patents, the Salt Lake City company has been the exclusive U.S. commercial provider of genetic tests for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

The challengers argued the patents have allowed Myriad to dictate the type and terms of genetic screening available for the diseases, while also dissuading research by other laboratories.

” &*^$ yes. A defect in her BRCA1 gene is what caused Angelina Jolie to recently have a preventive double mastectomy. (via @tylercowen)”

It took too long but this awesome.  DNA is the very definition of something thast should not be owned.



Posted on: June 13, 2013, 12:30 pm Category: Uncategorized

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