Making the Case Against Gene Patents

Perspectives on Science 23 (1):106-145 (2015)
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. On June 13, 2013, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, holding that a naturally occurring DNA segment that has merely been “isolated” is not patent eligible, and effectively overturning a longstanding policy that had allowed for patents to be issued on thousands of human genes. Drawing largely on the expert testimony and arguments presented during the court proceedings, this paper provides an overview of the discovery and patenting of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes at issue in the case, the impacts of gene patents on biomedical research and innovation and clinical practice, and the legal analysis presented by the plaintiffs throughout the case for how patents issued on genes violate the Patent Act and the U.S. Constitution. Finally, it discusses how the Court’s decision in this case marked an extraordinary victory not only for the plaintiffs directly involved, but more generally for women, patients, researchers, civil liberties, and the future of medicine.



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