Can a human gene be patented? Parthasarathy discusses Supreme Court case

June 6, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision upholding patents on human genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. The Court will soon decide the case involving Myriad Genetics, Inc., which owns the patents to the two human genes. When mutated, these genes give a woman a high risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. As the sole patent holders of the genes, Myriad would also hold a monopoly on testing for the gene mutations.

Ford School associate professor Shobita Parthasarathy is quoted in an article in the Deseret News, indicating that the Court has, potentially, three options. "First, it can uphold the status quo and say that isolated DNA can be patented," she told the paper, which would allow Myriad to control testing and research on the genes. She also explained that the Supreme Court could invalidate patents on isolated and complimentary DNA, which could force American business to rethink their patent strategy.