The Case For and Against the Patenting of Genes

June 21, 2010

Haig Kazazian, PhD, Seymour Gray Professor of Molecular Medicine in Genetics; Arupa Ganguly, PhD, associate professor of Genetics; and Art Caplan, PhD, director of the center for Bioethics, were all quoted in a Philadelphia Inquirer article about gene patenting. In 1998, Ganguly and Kazazian were ordered to stop offering women a test for genetic mutations that carry a dire risk of breast cancer. Myriad Genetics Inc. accused the researchers of patent infringement and threatened them with a lawsuit. They weren't even using a test patented by Myriad. Ganguly had pioneered a new way to read these genes and devised her own test. But Myriad held a patent on the genes themselves. Now both have been pulled into a lawsuit that could not only strip Myriad of its patents but end the 30-year-old practice of patenting human genes. The lawsuit was filed in New York by the American Civil Liberties Union along with several medical associations and breast cancer activists. The ACLU won the first round in March when federal Judge Robert Sweet ruled that Myriad's patents on genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 were improperly granted. Myriad filed for appeal last week. The case now looks likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court… read more