Amid all the hype over the federal health care law before the Supreme Court, you might have missed this even more relevant news: The high court rejected an appeals court ruling allowing genes to be patented. The case involves two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer, patented by Myriad Genetics Inc.
The ruling is not a final decision, but sends the case back down to the district court for further action.
We've been following this case since it was filed, because it could have major bearings on personalized medicine, cancer care and the future of genomics. Cancer patients, the American Civil Liberties Union and legions of scientists have argued companies shouldn't be able to patent the secrets of nature; elements of our genome are fundamental to our humanity, and shouldn't be owned by private companies, they say. But pharmaceutical companies argue genetic research is expensive and difficult, and their labors should be protected from misuse by others who did not have to bear the research and development risks and costs.
Carriers of the two BCRA genes, BCRA-1 and 2, can be at a much greater risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad Genetics patented the genes and holds exclusive rights over their use, including the only gene test that can identify BCRA. So if a patient wants to be tested to determine whether she has the genes, she — or her insurance company — has to pay Myriad a hefty sum. Men can carry the gene, too, which raises their risk of prostate, pancreatic and other types of cancer.
In 2010, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet invalidated the BCRA patents, ruling that genes are discovered, not created. But a year later, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned Sweet's ruling, in a split decision with three separate legal opinions. The case moved to the Supreme Court, which on Monday threw out that appellate ruling. So now the case will return to Sweet's courtroom.
The Supreme Court said it threw out the appeals ruling in part because of a different SCOTUS ruling last week, in which it said laws of nature are unpatentable. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes for almost 30 years.
Either way, the final outcome will have major impacts on cancer research, personalized medicine and other gene-related medical fields. Stay tuned for the latest.
I, for one, am so happy about this. I don't want a company to own me if I get this kind of cancer. I've been against gene patents since I found out that the seed company Monsanto has patents on suicide seeds. If companies are able to patent gene's then there is no reason why I can't patent myself, and anyone on earth with my gene's in them owe's me a royalty.
Yes, I agree. Patenting genes has set a bad precedent
I totally agree with you on this matter. I'm sure some of you that comment on here watched the movie Repo Men. Talk about a scary future! If genetics companies were allowed to patent genes, we would all be in trouble. Because, what happens when something on you gives out and you need a replacement? You're put on a donor list and you have to wait.
Well, some are lucky and most are not.
I lost my Dad in 2010 due to lung cancer, and would've given anything to have him here with me today, but not if it meant that he had to have "patented" lungs replace his old cancerous ones. I can see it now, a collection agency calling him about a late payment on his lungs, but he can't pay it, so they come to collect... That is BAD business when it comes to life as we know it.
" But pharmaceutical companies argue genetic research is expensive and difficult, and their labors should be protected from misuse by others who did not have to bear the research and development risks and costs."
What a load of crap, big pharma has been selling cheap drugs all over the world and sticking us with the high price tag here in America for decades. And you know money is no issue for these people, they come out with a new drug for a disease that didn't even exist the week before on a bi-annual basis. Restless leg my a$$. And the FDA is always right there to approve it, even if it's got 50 side effects (which it usually does).
What it boils down to is Myriad committing extortion by withholding potentially life saving information in exchange for a patent that will give them a monopoly over people's lives. Can't get much lower than that.
Yes trying to patent these things is just a cheap way for the company to avoid doing work and buffer themselves against any other company doing research with those genes. It doesnt nothing to further research, human, knowledge, health, or protecting the companies work.
They may still patent processes that work regarding the use of these genes, for example curing cancer detected by BRCA1/2. That however would require work, and they would much rather hold up that research by requiring everyone to pay for access to those genes.
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The distinction between an invention and a discovery is the foundation of any patent system. If it is removed then any scientific discovery would become patentable sooner or later.
They are claiming patent rights saying they spent lots of money for research but I remember reading they done the research using government grants from NSF etc.
It is just incredible greed!
Actually the Supreme court did not say that genes can't be patented and did not deliver a blow to Myriad. According to a Businessweek article ( www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-03/D9TOVQ082.htm ) this could even be positive news for Myriad, because all the Supreme court did was delay a decision by 2-3 years and telling the lower courts to take another look at it in regard to the recent Nestle case ruling. In the Nestle case the Supreme Court said that you can't patent processes that use the natural law. Since Myriad's process of isolating genes does not follow natural law, this would actually strengthening their case. So careful how you word your headline and possibly mislead people.
There is nothing new under the sun; only us humans rediscovering it and of course the patent office itself, lol.
See life in all its beautiful colors, and
from different perspectives too!