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Human Gene Patent Case Goes to Supreme Court
Date:4/15/2013

roducing some parts and thus creating "a synthetic gene" -- something that does not exist in nature and has specific functions -- that type of "synthetic gene" is patentable, Shapira said.

"Some synthetic genes are used by the biotechnology industry to make therapeutic antibodies, such as Rituxan (used to treat lymphoma) or Herceptin (used to treat breast cancer)," Shapira said. "These synthetic genes have patents that nobody disputes."

Some of the opposition's concerns are overblown and some are simply incorrect, according to Mark Capone, president of Myriad Genetics Laboratories, Inc., a subsidiary of Myriad.

"Myriad cannot, should not and has not patented genes as they exist in the human body on DNA," Capone told the AP. "This case is truly about isolated DNA molecules, which are synthetic chemicals created by the human ingenuity of man that have very important clinical utilities, which is why this was eligible for a patent."

However, the ACLU contends that isolating the DNA molecules doesn't stop them from being DNA molecules, and that these molecules are not patentable. That position appears to have the support of the Obama administration, the AP reported. In court papers, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said artificially created DNA can be patented, while "isolated but otherwise unmodified genomic DNA is not patent-eligible."

Dr. Barbara Pober, a professor of medical sciences at Quinnipiac University's Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, agreed that the Myriad genes should not have been patented. "Genetic sequencing in the laboratory, as performed by Myriad Genetics, does not involve sufficient alteration or modification of the gene to warrant the protections afforded to a patented product," she said.

"In fact, patenting genes inhibits dissemination of genetic information to patients, as well as innovation and technology by eliminating the ability of both small and large laboratories to develop genetic t
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