Supreme Court Makes Ruling in Controversial Human Gene Patentability Case

The Supreme Court handed down a ruling on Thursday in the Myriad Genetics Inc. biotechnology case.

Under the Patent Law, things that naturally occur in nature are not patentable. At issue was whether a human gene, as a product of nature, can be patented. Specifically, Myriad Genetics had the rights to seven patents on two genes; BRCA1 and BRCA2, linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

Myriad argued that it had not patented human genes. Instead, Myriad had patented its own discoveries – discoveries that have cost them over $500 million to make – which resulted in synthetic molecules they isolated and created in the lab to provide life-saving tests.

The court, in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled that synthetically produced genetic material can be patented, but that genes extracted from the human body, cannot.

In the court’s opinion, Justice Thomas wrote that the U.S. Court of Appeals was wrong to find that isolated human DNA and the synthetic molecules created by Myriad, were both patent eligible.  Had the Supreme Court voted the other way, corporations could continue to patent naturally occurring genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, that they discovered and further profit from the sole ability to treat afflictions that affect these genes.

To read the court’s opinion in its entirety, visit here.

To read more on this story, visit here.

Leave a Reply

Join Our Newsletter

Be the first to know about client news, new services, industry headlines and more!