Of genes and patents and Myriad Genetics


In March 2010, as previously reported on this web site, a federal court judge initially ruled that the patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes held by Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah “are directed to a law of nature and were therefore improperly granted.”

Earlier today, according to a Reuters news report, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in New York reversed that earlier decision, declaring that the composition of matter claims covering isolated DNA and cDNA of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are patent-eligible under Section 101 of the United States Patent Act.

The issue of whether it is legal to patent the biochemical structure of a specific piece of naturally occurring genetic material is a critical issue for the global biotechnology industry, and there are strong arguments on either side of this case (quite apart from the moral and ethical questions).

As we have said before, this issue is likely headed for the Supreme Court before we are done, but it has immense ramifications for the future development (and the future costs) of new tests and new drugs for hundreds of clinical disorders — prostate cancer being just one such!

One Response

  1. Ugh! Seriously? OK, How about ~ if it’s a technique that discovers the gene then that’s patentable, but if we are talking about a patent on a gene that our bodies make, than that patent should belong to the gene owner. … We start patenting genes, then what? Do I have to pay royalties to stay alive?

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