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Should you be able to patent a human gene?
April 08, November 20, The invalidation means more choice for patients Will purification of genes extracted from our body change their composition or character? Companies that are engaged in developing gene diagnostics believe so. Surprisingly, patent offices in the U. That probably explains how thousands of genes making up nearly 20 per cent of the human genome have been patented. The number has been reduced to 16 following this judgement. The company has indicated its intention to appeal against the verdict. This judgement has far-reaching implications for patients and researchers, and companies that are into gene diagnostics. The Myriad was holding exclusive licence to sequence the two genes and study the sequences for mutations that cause breast and ovarian cancers. The monopoly meant that it limited both patients' and doctors' choice of an alternative test. Patients in the U. Research stifled Being an exclusive licence holder, the company had no incentive to invest in research to make tests more reliable and encompassing. That exclusive licences hamper research is well known. Researchers were hence a disgruntled lot. For the above mentioned reasons, none was able to legally offer alternative tests using kits developed by other companies. More choice Apart from the implications for patients, doctors, researchers and companies, the judgement has set a precedent in invalidating gene patents. However, since the judgement was by a district court, its decision will not be binding on other federal courts. The highlight of this judgement is the scientific way in which it went about to systematically reject each and every claim of Myriad's. According to them, the mere act of isolating and purifying the gene taken from the body makes it very different from what is found in nature. The American Wood-Paper had produced refined cellulose; it is nothing but purified pulp derived from wood and vegetable. Myriad had banked on this verdict to support its claim. The central premise of Myriad's argument has been that isolated DNA molecules are much the same as any other chemical compounds. In other words, isolated DNA is the same as, say, oxygen. Explaining the uniqueness of DNA as a carrier of genetic information and for coding for proteins, the ruling notes: Even if this verdict is not binding on federal courts, the coming years will surely see more cases filed for invalidating gene patents. Sign up to receive our newsletter in your inbox every day! GO Please enter a valid email address.
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