#2. The Supreme Word on Genes
Over the last three decades, 40,000 patents on DNA molecules have been issued, covering one in five human genes. Biotechnology companies claimed such patents were necessary to make genetic research financially viable. Doctors and scientists, on the other hand, claimed that gene patents stymied research and hurt patients.
The Supreme Court finally weighed in this year, in a case centered on Myriad Genetics' patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene sequences. The company has had a monopoly on testing these genes for mutations that contribute to breast and ovarian cancers.
In June the Court ruled that naturally occurring DNA sequences cannot be patented. The decision brought about an immediate expansion in genetic testing alternatives for patients, both for BRCA and other genes. But since then, Myriad has filed new lawsuits to protect its BRCA test, and the outcome remains to be seen.
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