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In a ruling today, science won.  Srsly.

I was just looking at the news and saw this:

US judge strikes down patent on cancer genes

As it is a story from a news agency with other property issues, I'm not going to take any parts of that story to quote.  But I would encourage you to go and have a look.

Update: RLMiller finds another version of the story here Myriad, U. lose ruling over breast cancer-gene patents

The ACLU took the issue of gene patenting to court, and specifically on the patents that Myriad Genetics holds on the BRCA genes.  Variants of these genes lead to cancer in certain people.  You can find some of the backstory on this here:

Roundup: ACLU Sues Over Breast Cancer Gene Patents

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Tuesday against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Myriad Genetics, and the University of Utah, arguing that patents for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are invalid. Mutations in the two genes are responsible for a large number of hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad holds a monopoly on the tests for the mutations with its exclusive license for the patents.

The ruling isn't what most of us in this arena might have predicted, no matter what we thought personally about the issue.  From that same article:

Science Progress advisory board member Art Caplan offers a sobering perspective about the gravity of this suit for patent lawyers in his Breaking Bioethics column, even though he thinks a Myriad victory is all but certain. Twenty percent of all human genes are patented, he notes, and most of the worldwide drug industry rests on the legal foundation established by the Myriad patents.


Like most technology, this arena has risks and rewards.  I personally don't think it's a good idea to let your neighbor with a PCR machine check your BRCA genes, for various issues of safety, quality control, and counselling.

Even in quality-controlled professional hands there are issues about genetic testing and the meaning of the results: Family Struggles With Ambiguity Of Genetic Testing.  It should still be entered into cautiously at this point, with appropriate conversations with biomedical professionals.  

Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting story--sorry for the brevity.  I hadn't planned on a diary so this lacks a lot, I know.  But we can talk in the comments....

UPDATE 2: Mike at ScienceBlogs links to the ruling

UPDATE 3: As expected, more coverage of this today as people have digested it.  Daniel at Genetic Future addresses it, and links to some appropriate and excellent legal commentary from people who know this area well.


Originally posted to mem from somerville on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 06:21 PM PDT.

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