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Supreme Court hears oral arguments in breast cancer gene patent case

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The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Monday in a challenge by a contingent of breast cancer patients and women’s health organizations against a Utah company’s claim to being able to patent human genes.

Bloomberg News reported that the high court used analogies like chocolate-chip recipes in discussing the case, stemming from a 2009 suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against Myriad Genetics for filing patents on two genes connected with increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

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According to NBC News, mutations in the genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, can lead to an 85 percent risk of breast cancer and a possible 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer.

Justice Antonin Scalia expressed concern during the discussion for the potential impact of the lawsuit on companies’ ability to conduct research.

“Why would a company incur massive investment if it can’t patent?” Scalia asked at one point.

Attorneys for the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation said in a statement that Myriad’s patent on the genes is unlawful because it removes them from being examined by the scientific community at large.

“Myriad did not invent the human genes at issue in this case, and they should not be allowed to patent them,” ACLU attorney Chris Hansen said. “The patent system was designed to encourage innovation, not stifle scientific research and the free exchange of ideas, which is what these patents do.”

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A federal appeals court ruled in favor of Myriad in 2011, saying DNA isolated from the body could be patented because its chemical structure was “markedly different” from biological material located inside a person’s chromosomes. However, the court also ruled that the company could not patent the analysis process used to determine whether mutations were present.

President Barack Obama’s administration urged the court to consider whether Myriad could have a patent on complimentary DNA (cDNA), a synthesized version of the material. Justice Anthony Kennedy asked whether that provision would “give the industry sufficient protection for innovation and research”

A decision is expected by the end of June 2013.

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[Image via Shutterstock.com]


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WATCH: Saturday Night Live airs Christmas special — that’s just one giant dig at the Electoral College

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NBC's "Saturday Night Live" aired an opening skit that was just one giant attack on the electoral college.

A snowman introduced the segment, saying that we could look in on the holiday table conversation thanks to hacked Nest cams.

The skit featured a house in San Francisco, California, a second in Charleston, South Carolina and a third in Atlanta, Georgia.

Each dinner table debated impeachment, and the differences between President Donald Trump and his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

But then the snowman said that none of their votes matter.

"They'll debate the issues all year long, but then it all comes down to 1,000 people in Wisconsin who won't even think about the election until the morning of," the snowman said. "And that's the magic of the Electoral College."

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Georgia mayor being recalled for racism resigns from office: report

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Hoschton Mayor Theresa Kenerly resigned in a special city council meeting held on Saturday, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Saturday.

"The resignation came just days after Councilman Jim Cleveland resigned saying he‘d rather leave office on his own terms than face voters in a recall election next month," the newspaper reported. "Both resignations follow an AJC investigation launched seven months ago into claims that an African American candidate for city administrator was sidetracked by Mayor Theresa Kenerly because of his race."

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Nine 2020 Democrats unite to demand DNC Chair Tom Perez scrap debate rules: report

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The Democratic National Committee is facing a revolt for the party's 2020 presidential candidates for its restrictive debate rules.

"Nine Democratic presidential candidates, including the party's front-runners, are urging the Democratic National Committee to toss out the current polling and fundraising rules used to determine who appears in televised debates and reopen the exchanges to better reflect the historic diversity of the current field. The candidates say the rules exclude diverse candidates in the field from participating," CBS News reported Saturday evening.

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