Molecular Medicine Israel

Supreme Court nixes gene patents

Last Thursday (June 13), the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled against the patentability of isolated human genes, such as the patents Myriad Genetics held on two BRCA genes, mutations in which are linked to breast and ovarian cancer. In an essay (published early online as a result of the High Court’s decision) for our July print issue, lawyer Joan Ellis of the Dickinson Wright firm wrote that the finding is not surprising, and lays out the precedent set by previous Supreme Court cases. And while many have raised concerns about what the invalidated patents will mean for the biotech and pharma industries looking to get healthy returns on investment in the genetic testing field, Jeffery Perkel reported that many will actually benefit from the decision.

Women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer will now likely have more than one option for a genetic test before deciding whether or not to receive a mastectomy or ovariectomy; healthcare consumers should see the costs of genetic diagnostics drop as more competition enters the marketplace; and researchers previously weary of venturing into the genetic testing field can now forge ahead without fear of litigation. “I am delighted,” Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington School of Medicine told the New Scientist last week. “This is a fabulous result for patients, physicians, scientists, and common sense.”

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