Watch Can Companies Patent Your DNA? – June 2 at 6:30 p.m. on PBS. See more from In The Loop.
SUPREME COURT: Big Biotech Can’t Patent Your DNA
A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but cDNA [synthetic DNA] is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring,” according to the court ruling written by Justice Clarence Thomas.
Utah biotech company Myriad Genetics is at the center of the patent dispute. As strange as it might sound, the company owns the patents to two so-called isolated genes that show women have increased chances of getting breast cancer. (Angelina Jolie had a preventative masectomy because she had one of these genes.)
A patent on your DNA? What the Supreme Court ruling means for you
Opponents of patenting human DNA say a ruling in favor of Myriad will mean companies can own your genes, even though experts say it’s more complicated than that. The patents set off a cascade of effects, opponents argue: it gives the company a monopoly on the test that can identify whether patients have the BRCA mutations so other companies can’t offer their own tests as a second opinion. There’s also no one to compete with the Myriad’s $3,000 price tag on the test.
Supreme Court Appears Skeptical of the Patentability of Isolated DNA Molecules
On April 15, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., et al. regarding whether an isolated DNA molecule is patentable. The Court’s decision in this case could have a significant impact on the validity of existing patents relating to isolated DNA as well as the biotech industry’s incentive to invest in this technology.