Did you know that in the past decade biotech companies have been patenting YOUR genes? The human DNA has been up for grabs by any corporation with the most powerful microscopes and the more zealous researchers.
Where did these research centers get the genes in the first place?
The answer: from humans who had the misfortune to inherit by natural selection – a gene that triggers illness or disease.
Genes that are triggered by environment or heredity may create diseases such as sickle cell, colon cancer, breast cancer, etc. etc. - and many more genetic defects that cause bodily malfunctions. How can a government office give ownership over something that occurs naturally in nature? Who owns all the oak trees, the sheep, or corn? Just because a gene is isolated does not mean it has been “manufactured” as an ‘invention’. DNA/genes has been around since the first organism wiggled across the planet Earth.
How does this ruling affect us? It narrows down to one thing – research into disease! Once the gene is patented it is ‘owned’ by the biotech company and ONLY that company can do research on that disease…. Or a research organization that pays for the right to do research.
Is this crazy…. or what?
Where is the problem for humanity?
Once the biotech owns the gene it isn’t going to stop discovering new genes – that is how these corporations make their profit – why would they stop and discover a cure? This means the biotech corporation can then hang onto the gene or sell research rights to the highest bidder. Then the biotech company goes back to discovering more genes and patenting them.
Did the United States Supreme Court make the right decision? They stated that a patent is for human inventions. A gene already exists in nature therefore it cannot be patented…. even though a biotech lab has isolated it.
In fact the only way a biotech corporation could have discovered a gene is to ‘TAKE’ it from an individual that already has the gene. Just because a company is able to isolate a gene under a microscope does not give them the right to ‘own’ that gene because it is already owned by the circumstance of birth.
This Supreme Court decision began when a company tried to patent BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are thought to trigger breast cancer. Scientist/researchers objected – they knew if a patent was obtained all research would halt on breast cancer except for any research approved by the company that owned those genes. This is NOT for the benefit of mankind.
The issue was explained by The Times:
The central question for the justices in the case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, No. 12-398, was whether isolated genes are “products of nature” that may not be patented or “human-made inventions” eligible for patent protection.
The Supreme Court sets the stage in a syllabus of the case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Inc:
Respondent Myriad Genetics, Inc. (Myriad), obtained several patents after discovering the precise location and sequence of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, mutations of which can dramatically increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. This knowledge allowed Myriad to determine the genes’ typical nucleotide sequence, which, in turn, enabled it to develop medical tests useful for detecting mutations in these genes in a particular patient to assess the patient’s cancer risk. If valid, Myriad’s patents would give it the exclusive right to isolate an individual’s BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and would give Myriad the exclusive right to synthetically create BRCA cDNA.
Recently Angelina Jolie had the genetic test for breast cancer that came about from the isolation of breast cancer genes. The current cost for this test is around $3000. While Angelina is wealthy and $3000 is nothing to someone with her wealth, many of you will not be able to afford a $3000 test. Will insurance or the new health care system pay $3000 for a cancer test? The reason for the outrageous cost is that the company who owns the patent on the two breast cancer genes has set the cost.
How does this Supreme Court ruling affect humanity? The downside is that research in genes is not as profitable and research will slow down. The upside is that research by universities will increase and the cost for testing will go down.
What about the genes that are already ‘owned’ by corporations? Will the patent office revoke these patents?
If enough people protest and file class action suits – attorneys can cite the new Supreme Court ruling as evidence to revoke other ownership of genes. There is hope, always and, as I have said before, miracles happen every day in every way.
According to The Times: ’only a few companies hold patents based on isolated genes, so biotechnology shouldn’t suffer many immediate economic reverberations.’
Who cares about biotechnology companies who profit from human disease research? Do you? Does that child with cystic fibrosis care about the profits of Biotech Company’s?
Although the Supreme Court rules that owning a patent on human DNAgenes is now off limits, they have ruled that cDNA is still available to patent. (For more information on cDNA go here: http://www.qwhatis.com/what-is-cdna/