April 15, 2013
The Supreme Court is poised to take up the highly charged question of whether human genes can be patented. But another question could trump it: Has the field of genetics moved so far so fast that whatever the court decides, it has come too late to the issue?
The case, which will come before the court on Monday, involves patents held by Myriad Genetics on two human genes, which, when mutated, give a woman a high risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer. The patents give Myriad a monopoly on testing for these mutations, a highly lucrative business.
The hearing comes as rapid scientific advances are producing an explosion of new information about human genes, as well as those of animals, plants and microbes, yielding new approaches to detecting and combating diseases.
Opponents of gene patents say no company should have rights to what is essentially part of the human body. They contend that Myriad’s monopoly has impeded medical progress and access to testing — in some cases denying patients their own genetic information.
This article was posted: Monday, April 15, 2013 at 5:20 am