Isolated human genes may not be patented, the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday, June 13th, 2013. The case concerned patents held by Myriad Genetics on genes that correlate with increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

The decision is similar to the position of the Obama administration, which had argued that isolated DNA could not be patented, but that complementary DNA, or cDNA, which is an artificial construct, could. The patentability of cDNA could limit some of the impact on industry from the decision.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court: “A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated,” he said. “It is undisputed that Myriad did not create or alter any of the genetic information encoded in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Groundbreaking, innovative or even brilliant discovery does not by itself satisfy the criteria” for patent eligibility, he said.

But manipulating a gene to create something not found in nature, Justice Thomas added, is an invention eligible for patent protection. He also left the door open for other ways for companies to profit from their research, such as patenting the methods of isolating genes.

Supreme Court
Rules Human
Genes May Not
Be Patented

The ruling will shape the course of research and testing, and it may alter the willingness of businesses to invest in understanding genetic material.

Tags:

Comments are closed.