You might have heard that a Federal court invalidated seven patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2, collectively known as "the breast cancer genes", earlier this week. It is, to quote our Vice President, a big fucking deal.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a story for MSN.com about women who were faced with the decision to be tested for faulty versions of those two genes. If tests showed the women had mutations that were likely to lead to breast cancer, the decisions became even more complicated. Everyone handled it differently, but they were all happy to have the choice. Unfortunately, that choice was very expensive, one expert told me, largely because Myriad Genetics owned patents on the naturally occurring genes and, effectively, had a monopoly on testing. The monopoly also meant women couldn't get a second opinion, so to speak, because there was only one lab doing the tests.
Patents like this are nothing new. But, according to United States District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet ...
the patents were "improperly granted" because they involved a "law of nature." He said that many critics of gene patents considered the idea that isolating a gene made it patentable "a 'lawyer's trick' that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result."
That's from a fabulous story by New York Times' reporters John Schwartz and Andrew Pollack. If you want to understand what's at stake in this case, why Monday's decision was so unexpected and what's up with the legal history on gene patents, this story is a great jumping-off point.
Sometimes, in the course of his work, University of Florida molecular geneticist Martin Cohn must travel with unusual items like a 3D-printed mouse penis. Similarly, University of Massachusetts biologist Diane Kelly totes around anatomical models like a mold of a dolphin vagina. They’re not alone in the odd science-related items they must fly with, from […]
Rod McCullom at Undark has a terrific overview of the perpetual “virtual lineup,” where half of all American adults “are enrolled in unregulated facial recognition networks used by state and local law enforcement agencies.”
It sure feels flat, right? (Life Noggin)
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