Court says company cannot patent human gene

The World

More than 4,300 human genes have been patented by private companies or academics. But yesterday, a Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled that Myriad, a biopharmaceutical company, could no longer hold the patent on several genes, including two that are closely associated with breast and ovarian cancer. The ruling has reignited an ethical debate over whether a gene – something that exists naturally and in every human – can become intellectual property.

Dr. Wendy Chung was a plaintiff in the case; she is a physician and genetics professor at Columbia University. She explains how Myriad’s patents inhibit her ability to most effectively treat her patients on a daily basis. (Myriad had asserted that because it held the patents on the cancer-related genes, only its labs could test patients for those genes.) We also talk with David Koepsell, author of “Who Owns You: The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes,” about the ethical dilemmas of owning a part of nature.

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