Advertisement
NeuroScientistNews
NeuroScientistNews

Court Rules Gene Patents Valid

Myriad Genetics can hold patents on the BRAC1 and BRAC2 oncogenes, but not on tests comparing DNA sequences.

By | August 17, 2012

image: Court Rules Gene Patents Valid National Human Genome Research Institute

The biotech industry won a partial victory yesterday, when a US federal appeals court ruled that Myriad Genetics’ patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes—mutations in which are associated with a higher risk of breast, ovarian, and other cancers—are valid. According to the court's decision, Myriad's patents on the BRCA genes should legally stand "because each of the claimed molecules represents a non-naturally occurring composition of matter," meaning that they were based on isolated and amplified DNA sequences, and not on naturally occurring products of nature.

"Although the decision will probably be appealed to the US Supreme Court, the biotech industry is breathing at least a temporary sigh of relief," Tim Worral, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, wrote in an emailed statement. "It's a win because much of the value associated with DNA-based or -implicated inventions, ranging from diagnostics to therapeutics, would be eviscerated if the court determined that the DNA claims were not patentable.”

The three-judge court, however, ruled against Myriad's right to patent methods for comparingand analyzing DNA sequences in the  population because the methods were not "transformative," ScienceInsider reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Public Patent Foundation, which led the fight against Myriad Genetics patents, are expected to appeal the decision to the US Supreme court.

Advertisement

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Comments

Avatar of: Guest

Anonymous

August 17, 2012

But the sequence itself is a naturally occurring product of nature!

If I take a photograph of a tree, I should be able to patent the image, but not the tree itself!

Surely the "novelty" is the sequence of the DNA itself, which was not derived by anyone nor "invented."

Avatar of: David_A_Bird

David_A_Bird

Posts: 2

August 17, 2012

But the sequence itself is a naturally occurring product of nature!

If I take a photograph of a tree, I should be able to copyright the image, but not patent the tree itself!

Surely the "novelty" is the sequence of the DNA itself, which was not derived by anyone nor "invented."

Avatar of: David Hill

David Hill

Posts: 1457

August 17, 2012

It's absurd. The logic used here reflects sheer ignorance on the part of the court. Congress needs to overhaul the patent and copyright systems, to bring them back to some kind of sanity. Why not just generate huge numbers of numerical sequences, and patent them all as your own 'creations'. Then again, will the patent holder be liable if one their sequences causes cancer?

Avatar of: Guest

Anonymous

August 20, 2012

The key is this, and it has always been one of the key definers of patentability "meaning that they were based on isolated and amplified DNA sequences", since Pasteur was granted his first patents on biological material (pure preparations of yeast free of bacteria) in the mid 19th century. Isolation requiring technical intervention is not enough-there must also be a demonstrated use (utility) and it must not have been described/published or used in public by anyone else previously (novel).

Avatar of: Ross Barnard

Ross Barnard

Posts: 1457

August 20, 2012

The key point is that they are ISOLATED and amplified DNA sequences. Isolation requiring technical intervention. This has been one of the criteria for patentability since Pasteur obtained his patents on biological material (a preparation of yeast free of bacteria "germs"). Technical intervention by itself is insufficient; a specific UTILITY must be described (so a random collection of sequences would NOT be patentable) and the isolated material must NOT have been described or used in public previously (must be novel). Simple really. It's actually amazing that Chakrabarty, in the 1980s had so much hassle getting his patent on an engineered bacterium that could degrade benzene derived organic pollutants, given that patents on biological material isolated from nature had been granted for well over 100 years. The MYRIAD patented sequences were intended to be used for early diagnosis or prediction of increased risk of cancer.

Avatar of: Deirdre Cassidy

Deirdre Cassidy

Posts: 1457

September 20, 2012

They want to patent them and use them for early diagnosis (and prediction) only if you pay the prices that they ask of you. They don't want to have to make prices competitive. Like prices of health care aren't ridiculous enough already!!! All Chakrabarty did was take a DNA sequence and stick it in the bacterium and wait for it to start producing the enzyme to breakdown the benzene. A naturally occuring enzyme, right? He just mass produced it, like they do with insulin. Myriad should get enough money to fund more research simply because they isolated these genes first. Science should not be about competing for money and glory; it should be a free flow of ideas between individuals. Perhaps if that were the case we'd be farther along than we are with many things.

Avatar of: Deirdre Cassidy

Deirdre Cassidy

Posts: 1457

September 20, 2012

On another note- with the prevalence of breast cancer and all the 'pink' stuff, why have I never heard any mention of the fact that taking estrogen, like many, MANY women did/do during menopause, can cause breast cancer...? I feel like women aren't being properly informed about the risks of taking the hormone.

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube
Advertisement

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
Advertisement
Life Technologies