The Supreme Court ruled that human genes cannot be patented, because they are a product of nature. However, the offered a compromise which allowed synthetic, complementary DNA, known as cDNA, to be protected by patent law, because it is not naturally occurring.
The case, Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, challenged the biotechnology company's existing patents on two genes associated with high risks of breast cancer, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Cancer researchers argued that the patents prevented other groups from developing more effective and less expensive methods to test for gene mutations. Myriad claimed that the patents protected billions of dollars in research and investment.
In the ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “it is undisputed that Myriad did not create or alter any of the genetic information encoded in the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes,” but in the case of cDNA, a genetic technician “unquestionably creates something new.” Myriad investors were obviously happy with the compromise, as company shares jumped eight percent after the ruling was issued.
Today's Supreme Court decision will open the door to new scientific research and testing methods, which could provide breakthroughs in diagnosing and curing breast cancer. It's great to know that scientific research will continue, and that no company has the right to own our DNA.
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