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.
Since its publication in late 2015, science writer Oliver Morton’s The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World has swept many “best book” (best science book, best business book, best nonfiction book) and with good reason: though it weighs in at a hefty 440 pages and covers a broad scientific, political and technological territory, few science books are more important, timely and beautifully written.
After years of speculation and wrangling over his remains, Kennewick Man turns out to be closely related to contemporary, local Native Americans after all. Discovered near Kennewick, Wash., in 1996, the skeleton ended up in a tug of war between tribes in the pacific northwest who wanted to bury the remains, and scientists who wanted […]
Our solar system is awesome.
Why buy one of those expensive and confusing universal remotes, clogged with enough buttons to launch a space shuttle, when you could accomplish the same electronic control right on your favorite mobile device? The Blumoo Universal Remote, now just $52.99 in the Boing Boing Store, harnesses the audio power of all your household equipment right […]
You may not love Microsoft Word, but you’ve definitely used it. Other than being one of the most ubiquitous programs on the planet, it’s been the go-to word processing system for more than a quarter-century because it’s as basic as it gets. But occasionally, you’ve got assignments that beg for a lot more options than simple […]
Almost everyone has their smartphone in a case of one kind or another. Beyond simple protection, finding a case that can charge your phone on its own, but doesn’t feel like it’s also adding a couple pounds to the phone’s weight is the tricky part. Billed as the world’s thinnest battery case, the ThinCharge iPhone […]