The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled on Friday in a 2 to 1 decision that human genes can be patented. The decision was made because it was decided that DNA extracted from cells is not a product of nature.
The court came to the decision that Myriad Genetics is able to patent two human genes that can predict the risk of ovarian and breast cancer in women. However, it is not possible to patent the gene that can determine a patient’s risk for cancer.
A lawsuit was filed in May 2009, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, on behalf of researchers, cancer survivors, scientific associations and women patients against the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation. The foundation holds patents on genes BRCA1 and BRCA2.
The Public Patent Foundation filed the lawsuit claiming human genes are an act of nature, and the court disagreed.
According to Judge Kimberly A. Moore, isolated DNA “is a distinct molecule with different physical characteristics than the naturally occuring” DNA found in nature, and that DNA found in nature is “part of a much larger structure, the chromosome.”
What do you think of the court’s decision? Nearly 20 percent of human genes are already patented, as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted thousands of patents on human genes.
More information on the lawsuits can be read here (pdf).
Is patenting human genes acceptable, or is genetic medicine already starting to go off the rails? What are your thoughts?