Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

FEMINIST WIRE NEWSBRIEFS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

March-30-10

Court Rules Against Patents on Breast Cancer Genes

A New York District Court judge ruled yesterday that patents on the human BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with breast and ovarian cancer, are invalid because the patents were "directed to a law of nature and were therefore improperly granted." The ruling (see PDF) did not consider claims that the patents are unconstitutional.

Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation currently hold patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes and have exclusive rights to perform diagnostic testing on the genes. The patents allow Myriad to restrict outside research on the genes and monopolize predictive cancer tests, for which the company charges $3000, that check for mutations in an individual's genes.

Judge Robert Sweet ruled that "the isolation of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 DNA, while requiring technical skill and considerable labor, was simply the application of techniques well-known to those skilled in the art...The identification of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene sequences is unquestionably a valuable scientific achievement for which Myriad deserves recognition, but that is not the same as concluding that it is something for which they are entitled to a patent."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Public Patent Foundation originally filed the lawsuit last year on the grounds that genes cannot be patented because they are "products of nature" and that the patents violate the First Amendment by restricting research. Plaintiffs included individual women, women's health groups, and science associations and professionals. Arguments in the case were heard in February.

ACLU staff attorney Chris Hansen said in a press release that the "ruling is a victory for the free flow of ideas in scientific research. The human genome, like the structure of blood, air, or water, was discovered, not created. There is an endless amount of information on genes that begs for further discovery, and gene patents put up unacceptable barriers to the free exchange of ideas."

The current lawsuit is the first to challenge gene patents as a civil rights violation and its outcome could have a far-reaching impact in genetic research as 20 percent of all human genes are currently patented; including those associated with Alzheimer's disease, muscular dystrophy, and asthma. Law professor Kenneth Chahine, who filed an amicus brief in support of Myriad´┐Żs case, told the New York Times, "If a decision like this were upheld, it would have a pretty significant impact on the future of medicine...The industry is going to have to get more creative about how to retain exclusivity and attract capital in the face of potentially weaker patent protection."

According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 are 3 to 7 times more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer than other women.

Media Resources: ACLU Press Release 3/29/10; New York Times 3/30/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 2/2/10; National Cancer Institute; US District Court Ruling 3/29/10


© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.

 

 

Send to a Friend
Their
Your
Comments
(optional)


More Feminist News

4/15/2014 Virginia Bishops Advocate More Abortion Restrictions for Poor Women - Using the Medicaid expansion debate as a platform, the Virginia Catholic Conference issued a statement Friday calling for the repeal of a Virginia law that allows state funding of abortion care for Medicaid recipients in situations where the fetus exhibits a "gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity" or a "gross and totally incapacitating mental deficiency." Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of the Diocese of Richmond and Bishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington authored the statement which urges Virginia lawmakers to act to expand Medicaid to cover more of Virginia's poor. . . .
 
4/15/2014 Activist Monica Jones Found Guilty of Walking While Trans - Trans woman, student, and sex work activist Monica Jones was found guilty Friday of "manifesting prostitution" by a Phoenix, Arizona judge after she accepted a ride with two undercover police officers in May 2013. . . .
 
4/14/2014 Kathleen Sebelius Resigns as Secretary of Health & Human Services - President Barack Obama last week announced the resignation of Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius. Noting that she will "go down in history" for "serving as the Secretary of Health and Human Services when the United States of America finally declared that quality, affordable health care is not a privilege, but it is a right for every single citizen of these United States of America," President Obama praised Secretary Sebelius for guiding the implementation of the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA). At least 7.5 million Americans have now signed up for health coverage through health insurance marketplaces created by the ACA. . . .