Human genes cannot be patented, says US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court has ruled that natural human genes cannot be patented.

This decision follows a case between Myriad Genetics and the Association for Molecular Pathology, regarding controversial breast cancer gene patents granted to Myriad.

The nine justices ruled unanimously that natural human genes are a “product of nature and not patent eligible“, according to Justice Clarence Thomas.

However, the Court also ruled that “cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring“.

“We believe the Court appropriately upheld our claims on cDNA, and underscored the patent eligibility of our method claims, ensuring strong intellectual property protection for our BRACAnalysis test moving forward. More than 250,000 patients rely upon our BRACAnalysis test annually, and we remain focused on saving and improving peoples’ lives and lowering overall healthcare costs.”

Peter D. Meldrum, president and CEO of Myriad Genetics.

The genes in question were the BRCA genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, mutations of which are linked to certain types of cancer. Myriad’s patent protection enabled the company to charge over US $3,000 for BRCA tests. However, this ruling has invalidated these patents – a victory for cancer patients, researchers and geneticists who believed Myriads’ patents restricted research. Others argue that without patent protection, drug companies will have less incentive to invest in R&D for future gene tests and treatments.

 

Related news:

US supreme court rules human genes cannot be patented (The Guardian)

US Supreme Court rules that only synthetic genes are patentable (Financial Times)

Reference links:

US Supreme Court official decision document

Myriad Genetics press release

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