Emily Collins reports that the High Court of Australia struck a blow in favor of women who are concerned about breast cancer. In a landmark ruling, the court unanimously held that American biotech company Myriad Genetics, Inc. could not patent gene coding for a BRCA1 protein, which acts as a tumor suppressor. As Science Alert explains it, “The decision means that a single company will no longer be able to control research on the gene, or receive all the profits from testing for it.” The decision will be very important for Australian women.
Myriad Genetics held the patent for BRCA1 in Australia, and its claim had been upheld in two earlier cases. Myriad had licensed its patent to an Australian company, Genetic Technologies. Australians were forced to pay whatever price the company set for testing. The lawsuit was brought by cancer survivor Yvonne D’Arcy. The High Court’s ruling agreed with the plaintiff’s position that Myriad did not produce anything new that could be patented.
The Australian ruling agrees with the holding of the U.S. Supreme Court in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics in 2013 that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated. Ms. D’Arcy hopes that other countries will follow the lead of Australia and the United States.
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