Supreme Court will hear arguments on breast cancer gene patent

By Samantha Kimmey
Friday, November 30, 2012 17:00 EDT
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Scientist handling DNA in cancer drug tests AFP
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The Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments next year regarding patents on breast and ovarian cancer genes, according to the ACLU, which brought the lawsuit with the Public Patent Foundation.

The suit claims that genes are “products of nature” and so cannot be patented by the Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation. The ACLU also claims that the patents inhibits research on both types of cancer.

“It’s wrong to think that something as naturally occurring as DNA can be patented by a single company that limits scientific research and the free exchange of ideas,” said Chris Hansen, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, in a press release.

“One company should not be able to dictate what testing is available and what research is pursued on two genes connected to devastating cancers,” said Sandra Park, staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, in the press release.

The patent holders were hoping that the Supreme Court would not hear the case, as the company won the last ruling in an appeals court. It argued that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a track record of allowing patents for DNA molecules and that patents protest the major investments that companies make in discoveries, according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to SCOTUSblog, the case “shapes up as a major case with potentially wide impact on scientific research, medical practice, and women’s health, in particular.”

[Image via AFP]

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