The U.S. Supreme Court has voted unanimously that human genes acquired through an isolation process do not constitute property that may be patent protected. However, the decision does not extend to artificially produced nor artificially altered human genes unless the result already exists in nature. Per the article:


The central question for the justices in the case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, No. 12-398, was whether isolated genes are “products of nature” that may not be patented or “human-made inventions” eligible for patent protection....The decision hewed closely to the position of the Obama administration, which had argued that isolated DNA could not be patented, but that complementary DNA, or cDNA, which is an artificial construct, could....But manipulating a gene to create something not found in nature, Justice Thomas added, is an invention eligible for patent protection.

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About time Myriad was stopped. They've slowed progress for BRCA testing long enough. We'll finally get competition for testing and also quality control. Currently there's just Myriad's claim that their test is 99.9% accurate - impossible for any known someone personally affected by Myriad's monopoly I've been waiting a long time for this.

Absolutely agree. Maybe there will be an explosion in biotechnology now the way there was an explosion in computer technology. At my age it can't come too soon.

I am encouraged by this decision, and particularly that it was nine to zip.  It seems that some corporations just want to claim anything to themselves, then make a profit off of it.  It was good to see SCOTUS call a halt to that in at least one venue.

oh, my lack of godz, sanity at last!
my wife is a 5x cancer survivor and a genetic researcher. I am crying right now. this is a very, very good decision. maybe the madness will finally stop and real research, not just mining, can go on.

currently making a cheep vid about this news for youtube.
my youtube handle is "zencat999".
it should be up in a few hours.

I think this is good, I have never agreed with the idea of patenting genes unless they are artificial; it is essentially like finding a new species of bacteria and then putting a patent on that. You didn't create anything, you simply discovered it.

Agreed, and I think this was exactly the position that the court took. I'm wondering, however, whether the procedure used to isolate a gene can be copyrighted.

Possibly, if you came up with it yourself. But unless there is some serious money to be made from it, I doubt that anyone would bother trying.

A unique process can be copyrighted or patented, I believe, but unless the applicant covers variants on the procedure, such processes can be recreated in the unconsidered variations on the original theme, and the worth of the copyright or patent becomes questionable at best.

The basic science for isolating and determining these gene's effects all came from publically funded university research. When they developed a test to check for the mutation then Myriad patented the gene, and stopped anyone from working on the gene in any way, especially developing a competing test.

As someone with the BRCA 1 in my family, I tested negative when I was diagnosed with breast cancer despite my mother's history. When my sister got diagnosed she pushed to be tested and was positive, as was my mother, her sister, and 3 of her 4 children. My mother was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer a year later. Research in Europe 2 years ago showed a false negative result in 14% of women in my situation, a negative test with diagnoses despite the mutation in family members using the Myriad test. The European test isn't available here, but now hopefully we'll have alternatives, plus a way to compare and learn the limitation of the tests, and how to improve them while lowering their costs.

Another related issue concerns the drive of profits over science - Sloane Kettering, where much of the basic work on BRCA was done, benefited financially from Myriad's monopoly. Until we get profit over everything out of our science, discovery will be limited. Any work using public dollars should be free to the public.

Just a personal note - since I was the first tested and was negative - my mother's breast cancer was diagnosed decades before the test - no one else was tested until more cancers arose in the family. If there wasn't a patent maybe a better test would have discovered the mutation earlier and saved some lives.

It seems to me that some sort of eminent domain has to be effected here where government using taxpayer's money can for a reasonable amount cease the property of the private sector and make it available for the greater good (in cases of health care). The private sector would still be compensated for its contributions and maybe even be encouraged to contribute more for more for more money from the government in the ceasing of worthwhile products. The private companies that were better at research and development would acquire better reputations and could more easily sell their other goods and services. To me gene and hormone therapies with spectacular results could be just around the corner but, as you have pointed out, might be severely encumbered if their administration is founded in greed. Your story certainly raises awareness. Thanks for sharing.

The Congress could have solve this problem years ago.  The authority on patents is a Constitutional duty of Congress to define. (that is when there is a functional Congress - unlike its current incarnation.  I have always contended that patenting of a gene just because a company discovers the gene and its phenotypic expression is no different than discovering a new plant species and patenting the plant.for all uses.

The fact that the decision was 9 to zip is encouraging.  


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