SCOTUS rules on patentability of human genes


Earlier today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled against Myriad Genetics in an important gene patenting case that we have discussed frequently on this site in the past couple of years.

The Court’s full opinion, which was unanimous, is now available on line.

Summarizing the decision, the Wall Street Journal wrote as follows:

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that human genes isolated from the body can’t be patented, a victory for doctors and patients who argued that such patents interfere with scientific research and the practice of medicine. … Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said the genes Myriad isolated are products of nature, which aren’t eligible for patents.

It should be noted that, according to other news services:

… the ruling wasn’t a complete loss for Myriad. The court said that DNA molecules synthesized in a laboratory were eligible for patent protection. … The court adopted the position advanced by the Obama administration, which argued that isolated forms of naturally occurring DNA weren’t patentable, but artificial DNA molecules were.

There is some more detailed analysis and commentary in an article on the BBC News web site for those with significant interest in this issue.

This appears to be the type of compromise ruling that The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink was expecting from SCOTUS. It will take a while for everyone to work out the precise implications for medicine on the one hand and for the biochemical and pharmaceutical industries on the other.

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