News / USA

US High Court: Human Genes Not Patentable

Detail of the West Facade of the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, March 7, 2011.Detail of the West Facade of the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, March 7, 2011.
x
Detail of the West Facade of the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, March 7, 2011.
Detail of the West Facade of the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, March 7, 2011.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that companies cannot patent human genes in their natural state. Patients’ rights groups are calling the decision a victory. The court, however, left room to protect patents on key biotechnology applications.

Myriad Genetics identified genes that raise a patient’s risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The company lifted those genes from the full set of genetic information that makes up a human being, and patented them. That gave Myriad exclusive rights over the use of those genes.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been allowing patents on isolated DNA for three decades, said attorney Sandra Park with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“What was problematic about these patents was that Myriad was able to use those patents to stop other laboratories from providing genetic testing, even when those other laboratories were using different methods,” she said.

Park said that means genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer risk is more expensive than if other labs could compete with Myriad. And patients could not get a second opinion on an important medical issue.  

In a unanimous decision, however, the court struck down this type of patent because the genes are products of nature.

Lisbeth Ceriani was a plaintiff in the case. She is a breast cancer survivor who struggled to afford Myriad’s test.

“Our genes are not being held hostage by a private corporation anymore. We have the right to know that our doctor can look at our own genes and know what is there,” said Ceriani.

Supporters say the ruling will lower costs and improve access to testing for this and other genetic conditions for which companies have patents. Also, researchers will be able to share data that results from genetic testing, hopefully moving them closer to better treatment and prevention.

Myriad Genetics, however, also created versions of the genes called complimentary DNA [cDNA] - basically, cleaned-up versions of the genes - and patented those, too.

The Supreme Court said those patents are okay because cDNA does not exist in nature.

Jennifer Swize, an attorney for the company, said, “To Myriad, the decision is a win. For all practical purposes, companies like Myriad use cDNA to do their testing.”

Swize said the company will continue to move forward because it has 24 patents on its breast and ovarian cancer gene research, and the court only struck down five of those.

And cDNA is hugely important to the biotechnology industry. Insulin to treat diabetics is produced using cDNA, for example.

Paul Berghoff, an attorney for the Intellectual Property Owners Association, wrote in support of Myriad in the case. “Nobody in the biotech industry is going to be dancing in the streets because of this, but I don’t think this is too much of a setback, if any.”

Observers note that Myriad’s stock price rose after the decision, suggesting the markets saw the decision as a positive one for the biotech industry.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: bean cube from: Seattle WA
June 14, 2013 2:15 AM
After I named something of an entity, the future of that entity is mine. What stupidities can you foresee about these language created laws?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid