U.S. top court weighs patentability of human genes
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that calls into question whether human DNA can be claimed as intellectual property, and remain off limits to everyone without the permission of the patent holder.
The lawsuit, filed in 2009 by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, challenges seven patents held by Myriad Genetics Inc on two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. A federal judge said the patents were invalid. An appeals court overruled that decision, and the case landed in the Supreme Court.
The legal issues center on whether the genes that Myriad patented, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, are natural phenomena. The ACLU says human DNA is a product of nature, and as such not patentable under the Patent Act. Myriad argues that its patents are for genes that have been “isolated,” which makes them products of human ingenuity and, therefore, patentable.
As scholars debate the legal questions, two parallel issues have emerged: whether patenting genes thwarts scientific research, and whether it harms patients
- Supreme Court: Can human genes be patented? (firstread.nbcnews.com)
- The Question of Whether We Can Patent Genes Heads to the Supreme Court (theatlanticwire.com)
- US court to hear gene patents case (bbc.co.uk)