Our Genes, Their Secrets

“Our Genes, Their Secrets.” By Eleonore Pauwels, The New York Times.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last Thursday, barring patents on human genes, was a wise and balanced decision that clears away a major barrier to innovation in the areas of biotechnology, drug development and medical diagnostics. But the decision is just a first step toward finding the right balance between protecting legitimate intellectual property and securing an open future for personalized medicine. In Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, the court ruled that “a naturally occurring segment” of DNA — genetic material that has been isolated from human chromosomes — cannot be patented because it is simply a product of nature. For policy wonks, the case was a David-and-Goliath fight, one of the most important patent cases in a decade, with an outcome sure to affect the $100 billion biotechnology industry, no matter how it was decided. But while the Supreme Court’s ruling has been welcomed enthusiastically by many, the Myriad case has been only a modest victory for the advocates of genetic-data sharing.

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