Playing with Patent Law: Profit Making Scheme

On June 13, 2013 Supreme Court of US ordered that naturally occurring genes and the information encoded by them will not be patented, though artificially synthesized ones can be. The issue came to picture when patent was filed by Myriad for BRCA 1 and BRCA2, which are human genes related to breast and ovarian cancer respectively.

Myriad genetics is one of the leaders in commercial diagnostic kits to check patient’s risk of developing diseases and hence get treated accordingly. After the court banned patenting of genes; companies have started manipulating genetic data for their own profits. Myriad made its own database that comprised of all the genetic variants present in people who took up their test for BRCA genes and claimed it as their own intellectual property. Therefore, access to this was not open to all.

Patenting human genes

As a consequence to this, the doctors could not check the variants available thereby making it difficult for them to assess the results of various diagnostic tests. Due to the restricted availability of results, the company had proprietary over the kits, and patients could not double check their problem using kits made by others.

In this context, Robert Nussbaum, Chief, Division of Genomic Medicine, University of California tried to bring patients and doctors together by asking his doctor friends to put up a copy of the data on public database ClinVar which is run by National Institute of Health. In the end, it could be said that for identification of such genes Myriad should be acknowledged but it is not entitled to patent those genes and no other company should be, even in future.