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Two genes associated with breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, were discovered in 1994 and 1995, respectively, and shortly thereafter, were patented by Myriad Genetics, a company based in Utah. Under the patents, testing for mutations in these genes could only be performed by Myriad, at costs from $300 to $3,000. Myriad also patented the process of analyzing the results of such tests, preventing anyone who obtains the sequence of their BRCA genes by other means (which itself would probably be patent infringement) from interpreting the information. The idea that genes can be patented has been a contentious issue from the beginning. Patents are not granted for products of nature, meaning that genes inside the body are not patentable, but biotech companies successfully argued that by removing a gene from the human body, purifying it, and then obtaining its DNA sequence, they created something not found in nature, and which is therefore a patentable invention. The U.S. Patent Office found the argument persuasive, but opponents argue that genes are parts of our bodies and can be identified but not invented. Biotech companies argue that without the protection offered by patents, they would have no incentive for research and development of diagnostic tests. In Europe, patents for BRCA1 and BRCA2 were revoked in 2004 because they did not meet the standards for a patent. After more than a decade of legal disputes, the patents were partially restored in 2008 on a very restricted basis. In the United States, a lawsuit, focused on the patents for the BRCA genes, was filed in May 2009. The suit challenges the basic idea that genes are patentable. In November 2009, the judge ruled that the lawsuit can proceed, and the case is moving forward. In March 2010, a federal court invalidated Myriad Genetics’ patent on these genes. In August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision and ruled that gene sequences isolated from cells are not a product of nature and are therefore patentable. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ordered the appeals court to reconsider the case. The Federal Appeals Court did not change its decision, and the case once again, went to the U.S. Supreme Court. A unanimous decision in June 2013 invalidated Myriad’s patents on the basis that isolating a gene from nature does not make it patentable. This is a landmark decision on gene patenting with widespread ramifications for the biotechnoloogy industry. Will this decision reduce the incentives for companies to invest in new diagnostic tests that would be used by cancer victims or those with serious genetic disorders?

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Human Heredity: Principles and Iss...

11th Edition
Michael Cummings
Publisher: Cengage Learning
ISBN: 9781305251052

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Section
BuyFindarrow_forward

Human Heredity: Principles and Iss...

11th Edition
Michael Cummings
Publisher: Cengage Learning
ISBN: 9781305251052
Chapter 8.4, Problem 1GR
Textbook Problem
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Two genes associated with breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, were discovered in 1994 and 1995, respectively, and shortly thereafter, were patented by Myriad Genetics, a company based in Utah. Under the patents, testing for mutations in these genes could only be performed by Myriad, at costs from $300 to $3,000. Myriad also patented the process of analyzing the results of such tests, preventing anyone who obtains the sequence of their BRCA genes by other means (which itself would probably be patent infringement) from interpreting the information.

The idea that genes can be patented has been a contentious issue from the beginning. Patents are not granted for products of nature, meaning that genes inside the body are not patentable, but biotech companies successfully argued that by removing a gene from the human body, purifying it, and then obtaining its DNA sequence, they created something not found in nature, and which is therefore a patentable invention. The U.S. Patent Office found the argument persuasive, but opponents argue that genes are parts of our bodies and can be identified but not invented. Biotech companies argue that without the protection offered by patents, they would have no incentive for research and development of diagnostic tests.

In Europe, patents for BRCA1 and BRCA2 were revoked in 2004 because they did not meet the standards for a patent. After more than a decade of legal disputes, the patents were partially restored in 2008 on a very restricted basis. In the United States, a lawsuit, focused on the patents for the BRCA genes, was filed in May 2009. The suit challenges the basic idea that genes are patentable. In November 2009, the judge ruled that the lawsuit can proceed, and the case is moving forward. In March 2010, a federal court invalidated Myriad Genetics’ patent on these genes. In August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision and ruled that gene sequences isolated from cells are not a product of nature and are therefore patentable. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ordered the appeals court to reconsider the case. The Federal Appeals Court did not change its decision, and the case once again, went to the U.S. Supreme Court. A unanimous decision in June 2013 invalidated Myriad’s patents on the basis that isolating a gene from nature does not make it patentable. This is a landmark decision on gene patenting with widespread ramifications for the biotechnoloogy industry.

Will this decision reduce the incentives for companies to invest in new diagnostic tests that would be used by cancer victims or those with serious genetic disorders?

Summary Introduction

To determine:  Whether the incentives for companies will be reduced to invest in new diagnostic tests that could be used by cancer victims or those with severe genetic disorder after the decision that gene coming from nature is not patentable.

Introduction: A patent is a special right granted to an inventor for an invention. The invention can be product or a process which is novel and provide a new solution to an existing problem. In the patent application, all the technical information is disclosed.

Explanation of Solution

Isolating a gene from nature is not patentable. The basic research in health and medicine generally help scientists with novel discoveries. Companies also support the novel and productive research which helps to improve the multimodality treatments for many diseases.

The isolated gene can be used in a sensing device. This sensing device can be patented as a biosensor or genosensor...

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