Supreme Court Says Human Genes Can't Be Patented

by Meredith Turits

In a unanimous decision Thursday morning, the Supreme Court ruled that companies can't patent parts of human genes that are a naturally occurring. This is big news in biotech, and has the potential to shape a lot of what's emerging out of the field right now.

"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, which was penned by Justice Clarence Thomas.

AP reports that the decision reverses 30 years of patent awards, including patents held by Myriad Genetics on a popular breast cancer test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Cancer groups took Myriad to the Supreme Court to challenge the patents over the genes, since the Utah-based company had a monopoly on the cancer test, preventing other groups from coming up with more cost- and technologically-efficient screenings.

So, the takeaway here? The decision is a potentially big door-opener for the development of more breast cancer tests, which can happen at less insane prices. And that's why these decisions are called "landmarks".

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