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Supreme Court rules on case examining whether human genes are patentable – Human DNA CANNOT be patented but SYNTHETIC DNA can be patented

Can a company own your genes?  A compromise decision has been made by the Supreme Court.  If the gene occurs naturally in nature, such as HUMAN DNA, it cannot be patented.  If it is synthetic, it CAN be patented.

From CNN:

Supreme Court makes decision in genes patent case


By CNN Staff

updated 10:31 AM EDT, Thu June 13, 2013


(CNN) — The Supreme Court has made a decision in a case examining whether human genes are patentable. Details of the ruling are expected shortly.

The case involves Utah-based company Myriad Genetics, which was sued over its claim of patents relating to two types of biological material that it identified — BCRA-1 and BCRA-2, whose mutations are linked to increased hereditary risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

Since Myriad owns the patent on breast cancer genes, it is the only company that can perform tests for potential abnormalities.

At issue is whether “products of nature” can be treated the same as “human-made” inventions, allowing them to be held as the exclusive intellectual property of individuals and companies.

On one side, scientists and companies argue patents encourage medical innovation and investment that saves lives. On the other, patient rights groups and civil libertarians counter the patent holders are “holding hostage” the diagnostic care and access of information available to high-risk patients.

The high court has long allowed patent protection for the creation of a new process or use for natural products. Whether “isolating” or “extracting” genes themselves qualifies for such protection is now the issue.”

On a personal note, I recently read the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  This story personalized the scientific development behind todays capabilities.  From Amazon:

“This title is an international bestseller. Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer whose cancer cells – taken without her knowledge – became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first ‘immortal’ human tissue grown in culture, HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and, have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta herself remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey in search of Henrietta’s story, from the ‘coloured’ ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live, and struggle with the legacy of her cells. Full of warmth and questing intelligence, astonishing in scope and impossible to put down, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.”

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