SUPREME COURT: Big Biotech Can’t Patent Your DNA
June 13, 2013
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that our natural DNA can’t be patented, in what the influential SCOTUSblog called “a significant patent ruling for the biotechnology industry.”
The high court did stike some middle ground by ruling that cDNA, which is artificially made cloned DNA, can be patented.
“A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring,” according to the court ruling written by Justice Clarence Thomas.
Utah biotech company Myriad Genetics is at the center of the patent dispute. As strange as it might sound, the company owns the patents to two so-called isolated genes associated with increased risks of breast cancer. (Angelina Jolie had a preventative mastectomy because she had one of these genes.)
Cancer groups went to the Supreme Court to challenge Myriad’s patents for the genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, since gene patents like these essentially give companies a monopoly on testing for those genes. The groups argued that Myriad’s patents stopped other groups from coming up with better and less expensive ways to test for the genes.
In ruling against Myriad, Thomas’s opinion pointed out that it’s clear the company didn’t actually make BRCA1 and BRCA2.