US supreme court rules human genes cannot be patented

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Source: The Guardian AU

Working in the laboratoryCOURT calls DNA a product of nature, contradicting biotech firm’s argument that isolated strains had ‘markedly different structure’

The US supreme court has ruled unanimously that natural human genes cannot be patented, a decision that scientists and civil rights campaigners said removed a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation.

The court on Thursday held that human DNA was a “product of nature”, a basic tool of scientific and technological work, thereby placing it beyond the domain of patent protection. It struck down patents held by Myriad Genetics Inc, a Utah company, on two genes linked to a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

But it also said that synthetic genetic material could be patented, in a mixed ruling for the biotechnology industry, which has argued that patents are necessary to recoup the billions of dollars it spends on research.

Myriad carries out tests for BRCA genes, recently brought into the public eye when actor Angelina Jolie revealed she had a double mastectomy after learning she tested positive for one of the genes.

The ruling represents a major shift in the law, overturning three decades of patent awards by the US government and could have a profound effect on the biotechnology and drug industry

Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that Myriad’s assertion that the DNA it isolated from the human body for its tests were patentable had to be dismissed because it violated patent rules. The court said that laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas lay outside patent protection.

“We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated,” Thomas said….READ FULL ARTICLE

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