Carmel, CA Human Gene Patents Could Lead To A Number of Predisposition To Cancer Testsby Richard Kuehn on 08/19/12
I've written many times on my blog about the huge potential of treating many types of cancer and other diseases by using targeted drugs based on an individual's DNA. A federal appeals court ruled this week that isolated human genes can be patented, a giant victory for the biotech industry. Opponents had argued that products of nature can not be patented and said that the gene patents will interfere with medical treatment and scientific research, something which the company disputes. The case revolved around Myriad Genetics attempts to obtain patents on two genes which determine whether or not a woman faces greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Federal Court to reconsider its positive ruling for Myriad Genetic in light of a ruling it recently made tightening rules on medical testing patents. However, the appeals court reaffirmed its position so this legal battle may end up going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. With a positive ruling, the company can invest in developing a commercial test which would allow women to go in and get screened for this predisposition. But the ruling, if it stands, will be far-reaching. I expect that dozens of similar tests will be developed revolving around almost every common affliction if this case survives the appeals process. The court was divided two to one with one judge voting for it despite the fact that one judge voting in favor wrote that it raised substantial moral and ethical issues related to granting property rights to a portion of a human's DNA. She said, however, that if restrictions were made they should be done through Congress, not through the courts. In a dissenting opinion, Judge William Bryson said that isolating a gene isn't a patentable invention. "Extracting a gene is akin to snapping a leaf from a tree," wrote Judge Bryson. This will be an interesting case to watch.