The decision, which reverses decades-long statues upheld by the Federal Government and U.S. Patent Office, directly impacts a burgeoning, new biotech sub-sector — DNA and genomics testing — which is finding its way increasingly into mainstream culture. The landmark Supreme Court case specifically targeted Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics Inc.’s long-held patent on specific gene sequences related to BRCA breast cancer tests, which most recently have gained considerable popularity after actress Angelina Jolie used results from the test to decide to undergo a double mastectomy.
The crux of the Supreme Court’s decision, which was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, centered on the fact that Myriad’s assertion that they could indeed patent a sequence of genes violated patent rules, which stipulate that laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable.
[adrotate banner=”9″]”We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated,” Thomas said.
The immediate impact of this ruling will empower competing DNA testing companies nationwide, such as Houston-based Gene By Gene, LTD., to offer similar BRCA tests as Myriad without having to pay prohibitively high licencing fees to the company, making it impossible in the past to compete on a cost basis. Sandra Park, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project, commented, “Today, the court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation. Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them. Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued.”