The future of DNA patents

By Lisa A Haile

The US Supreme Court has ruled that certain patent claims owned by Myriad Genetics, the US biotech company that holds the patents covering a test for breast cancer-related genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2), are invalid as products of nature.

The implications for this decision, handed down on 13 June, may not be as far reaching in the biopharma industry as some have speculated. The decision is not likely to deter the innovation that is driving critical discoveries and therapies in the sector. In a decision that leaves some important questions unanswered, the Court both took away and left certain subject matter intact as patent eligible.

Full genes as excised from the genome, including coding and non-coding regions as they ‘occur naturally’, are no longer patentable. However, genes that have been manipulated in the lab (e.g, cDNA) are patentable and valid…

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