Can Human Genes Be Patented?
2013 04 15

By Nina Totenberg | NPR



Same-sex marriage got huge headlines at the Supreme Court last month, but in the world of science and medicine, the case being argued on Monday is far more important. The lawsuit deals with a truly 21st century issue — whether human genes may be patented.

Myriad Genetics, a Utah biotechnology company, discovered and isolated two genes — BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 — that are highly associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad patented its discovery, giving it a 20-year monopoly over use of the genes for research, diagnostics and treatment. A group of researchers, medical groups and patients sued, challenging the patent as invalid.

There is no way to overstate the importance of this case to the future of science and medicine. In the view of Myriad and its supporters in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, patents are the keys to making these medical discoveries possible. Their opponents, including leading medical groups and Nobel Prize-winning scientists, contend that Myriad’s patent improperly puts a lock on research and medical diagnostic testing.

The U.S. patent system, authorized in the Constitution, gives temporary economic incentives to inventors to advance science. The general rules of the patent system have been established in statutes and Supreme Court case law for over 150 years. You can’t patent a product of nature or a law of nature. It doesn’t matter that the task was difficult or costly. Nature is immune to patents. So, even though it may have taken Einstein a long time to figure out that E=mc2, he couldn’t have patented that law of nature.

’Could You Patent The Sun?’

Until relatively recently, much of the medical profession disdained patents, except as a means to ensure quality. When Dr. Jonas Salk, the inventor of the revolutionary polio vaccine, was asked in 1955 whether he had a patent on the vaccine, he replied, "There is no patent ... could you patent the sun?"

Myriad Genetics, however, contends that the genes it isolated are not like the sun. Mark Capone, president of Myriad Genetics Laboratories, notes that the 20,000 genes in the human body are part of a 6-foot-long molecule that’s "coiled and compacted and stuffed into each cell." And, he says, "What Myriad was able to do is sort through all those 20,000 genes and find the two that were highly linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer."

The gene is like "a single grain of sand" hidden in a building the size of the Empire State Building, says Gregory Castanias, Myriad’s lawyer. He will tell the justices that isolating the two genes justifies a patent because "it is the final step in an extraordinarily complicated set of inventive actions that led to the creation of this molecule, which had never been available to the world before."

Not so, say those challenging the patent. Human genes are products of nature. They are an essential part of the human body. "All Myriad does is take a part of the body out of the body," says the challengers’ lawyer, Christopher Hansen of the . "It is no different than taking a kidney out of the body. Just because you are the [first] person who takes the kidney out of the body doesn’t entitle you to a patent on kidneys."

[...]

Read the full article at: NPR.org







Related Articles
A 3D Printer That Generates Human Embryonic Stem Cells
UK Public OK with creating babies from 3 people to avoid genetic diseases
Are genes our destiny? ’Hidden’ code in DNA evolves more rapidly than genetic code
Creating a Surveillance and DNA Database for Every American . . . From the Cradle to the Grave
Teenager astounds scientists by building a DNA testing machine in his bedroom
Gun Shoots DNA Bullets to Tag Criminals
Four-strand DNA structure found in cells
Verizon patents targeted advertising method that determines if viewers are laughing, cuddling, sleeping or singing
Open Seeds: Biopiracy and the Patenting of Life


Latest News from our Front Page

Mass Produced Security Robots Introduced in U.S.
2014 08 20
While debate continues to rage about the threat of autonomous "killer robots," the mechanized replacement of humans continues across the workforce. In fact, the robotics industry notched record sales in the first half of 2014 in North America, and there appears to be no indications of a slowdown. Security robots have become a special area of interest for developers. Britain ...
Is Michael Brown A National Hero?
2014 08 19
From: Brother Nathanael: I don’t know about you but I revolt against crowning Michael Brown a “national hero.” Better the crown go to Darren Wilson who according to the Ferguson Police Report shot Brown in self-defense. Yet there’s already a bounty on his head. And the media eats it up. For whether it’s NBC; CNN …or the New York Times; the spin is that ...
Toxoplasmosis – The Revealing Behavior and Effects of Parasites
2014 08 19
A fascinating interview with neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky on toxoplasmosis and the behavior of a seemingly intelligent parasite. The parallels to archonic-type influences are astounding. A must see. From: zengardner.com For context, please listen to John Lash on White Genocide & The Archontic Infection
Emmy Awards 2014 - Spoilers! Leaked Clip for Best Psychopath!!
2014 08 19
WARNING SPOILER ALERT!!! Leaked clip from the 66th Annual Emmy Awards scheduled to air August 25th, 2014. Winner announced for best Psychopath of the year! Video from: youtube.com Can’t get enough of those warm Zionist in Hollywood. Joan Rivers: "Palestinians deserve to be dead"
UN calls for tests on passengers in Ebola crackdown
2014 08 19
Health workers wearing protective clothing prepare to carry an abandoned dead body presenting with Ebola symptoms at Duwala market in Monrovia. Ebola-affected countries should immediately begin exit screening all passengers leaving international airports, sea ports and major ground crossings, the UN health agency urged yesterday. The risk of the Ebola virus being transmitted during air travel is low because, unlike infections ...
More News »