A Manhattan judge yesterday heard arguments on whether human genes should be covered by patents. A company called Myriad Genetics is being sued over its patents on two genes linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer—BRCA1 and BRCA2. The suit alleges that women's health is harmed by the patents, because, as an ACLU lawyer put it, "New forms of testing and new ways of using the gene have been inhibited."
The case has broad implications for the biotechnology industry and genetics-based medical research. Under the patent, women who fear they may be at risk of breast or ovarian cancer can be tested only by Myriad. Myriad argued that disallowing the patents would wreck the foundation of the entire biotechnology industry, adding that court precedent is on the company's side.