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By ARIANE DeVOGUE (@Arianedevogue)
June 13, 2013
The Supreme Court ruled today that isolated human genes cannot be patented, a partial defeat for Myriad Genetics, a company that had been awarded patents on the so-called BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in the 1990s.
But the court said DNA molecules engineered by man -- including so-called "cDNAs" -- are eligible for patents.
"Myriad did not create anything," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for a unanimous court.
"To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention."
Synthetic "cDNA" does not present the same obstacles to patentability as naturally occurring isolated DNA segments, Thomas wrote.
Myriad acknowledged in a statement today the court's ruling that five of its claims covering isolated DNA were not patent eligible. But Myriad "has more than 500 valid and enforceable claims in 24 different patents conferring strong patent protection for its BRACAnalysis test," the Salt Lake City, Utah-based company said.
Professor Lori Andrews of the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law said, "Today's decision allows any doctor or scientist to use the breast cancer gene for diagnosis or treatment. This means all genetic tests will become affordable and more researchers will be able to look for cures."