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EXCERPT FROM HERE: In 2009, Myriad Genetics applied for patents on the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes. Shortly thereafter, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation filed suit against Myriad, the University of Utah Research Foundation and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office claiming such patents inhibited a patient’s right to obtain valuable information in regard to hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.
On an important side note, Breast Cancer Action was and is a plaintiff in this lawsuit, the only national breast cancer organization listed as such.
Where are all the others? I’m just asking…
I applaud BCAction for taking this bold stance!
In March 2010, United States District Court Judge Robert Sweet ruled the patents were improperly granted based on the “law of nature” which basically means things in nature are discovered, not invented and therefore cannot be patented.
Myriad appealed to the Department of Justice assuming it would uphold its long standing government position on granting gene patents. To the surprise of many, undoubtedly especially to Myriad, it did not, but instead upheld Judge Sweet’s decision declaring these particular human genes should not be eligible for patents.
You guessed it, more appeals.
On July 29, 2011 a higher U.S. federal appeals court reversed things once again, this time by affirming Myriad’s right to indeed patent the two human genes in question.
The controversy continues.
Here is what noted author, physician Michael Crichton stated about patenting human genes before he died:
You, or someone you love, may die because of a gene patent that should never have been granted in the first place. Sound far-fetched? Unfortunately, it’s only too real.
Gene patents are now used to halt research, prevent medical testing, and keep vital information from you and your doctor. Gene patents slow the pace of medical advance on deadly diseases. And they raise costs exorbitantly: a test for breast cancer that could be done for $1,000 now costs $3,000.
Why? Because the holder of the gene patent can charge whatever he wants, and does. Couldn’t somebody make a cheaper test? Sure, but the patent holder blocks any competitor’s test. He owns the gene. Nobody else can test for it. In fact, you can’t even donate your own breast cancer gene to another scientist without permission. The gene may exist in your body, but it’s now private property.
This bizarre situation has come to pass because of a mistake by an underfinanced and understaffed government agency. The United States Patent Office misinterpreted previous Supreme Court rulings and some years ago began—to the surprise of everyone, including scientists decoding the genome—to issue patents on genes.
Human beings share mostly the same genes. The same genes are found in other animals as well. Our genetic makeup represents the common heritage of all life on earth. You can’t patent snow, eagles, or gravity, and you shouldn’t be able to patent genes, either. Yet by now one-fifth of the genes in your body are privately owned. READ MORE HERE.