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WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a unanimous decision the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a person's genes, as they naturally exist in a person's body, are not patentable. The case involved a company, Myriad Genetics, that had patented two DNA sequences related to breast cancer risk, and had exclusive license on the diagnostic tests.
Of the decision Family Research Council (FRC) Senior Fellow Dr. David Prentice said:
"This is an important legal decision. Some people might think that it should be common sense that you own your own genes, the DNA found in each of our cells, but there have been some patents given on some of the normally-occurring genes within our cells. That the Patent Office approved patents on our genes is a profoundly disturbing idea, as is the idea that someone else can own parts of your body, especially your genetics. The Supreme Court has resoundingly denied this idea.
"The decision has implications for genetic testing, treatments, and medical research as well. Patents generally encourage research and innovation. However, the patents on normal DNA sequences have led to limits on research to develop diagnostic tests and treatments, and thus have also greatly increased the cost for tests under an exclusive license. This decision opens the field for more research and development to occur in genetics. In fact, the Supreme Court left open the possibility of patents on artificial DNA sequences that were created and manipulated in a laboratory, and this could stimulate innovation in genetic research.
"Patients, physicians, scientists, and biotechnology companies should all benefit from this heartening Supreme Court decision. We congratulate those with whom we've collaborated across the political spectrum, such as Friends of the Earth, the International Center for Technology Assessment, and the Southern Baptist Convention."