Court Rules Against Gene Patents
The New York Times: A judicial ruling that "threw out parts of two gene patents and called into question thousands more" has biotechnology executives hastening "to reassure their investors that the ruling would not necessarily undermine their businesses, at least in the short run. But the executives themselves were struggling on Tuesday to figure out what the long-term impact would be."
"In a far-reaching ruling, [federal district] Judge Robert W. Sweet ... ruled that parts of patents held by Myriad Genetics covering two breast cancer genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, were invalid Myriad analyzes those genes in an expensive test that predicts whether a woman is at a high risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer. The plaintiffs in the case, which included various medical groups and the American Civil Liberties Union, said the patents on DNA were illegal and impeded access to the testing." Some analysts expressed shock in reaction to the ruling (Pollack, 3/30).
The Wall Street Journal: "The ruling adds legal weight to the argument by some geneticists and others that companies and institutions shouldn't be allowed to patent basic genetic information that makes people human." Some experts say the court ruling will be a positive step for scientific research. "When companies hold exclusive licenses for human genes, competition to develop gene-based applications can be restricted, prices inflated and innovation slowed, some geneticists say."
"Biotech companies say that if they are making a scientific advance, they should be able to protect both their intellectual property and financial investment. ... [But] science increasingly is showing that combinations of genes are critical to defining risk of disease. Exclusive licensing of gene patents may be slowing down advances in this area of medicine." Myriad is appealing the decision (Wang, Koppell and Naik, 3/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.