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Gene-patent fight steps up in the Supreme Court

A much watched human-gene-patent lawsuit, filed in 2010 on behalf of researchers, genetic counsellors, patients, and various medical professional associations, heated up when oral arguments were heard in the US Supreme Court, but the court’s judgment is not expected until June.

The lawsuit, filed against Myriad Genetics by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Public Patent Foundation, seeks to invalidate patents on two genes associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. This case—the first challenge brought against human gene patents in the US—is pending before the court and oral arguments were heard on 15 April.

Myriad owns patents covering particular isolated human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancers, known as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. The company has argued that it patented synthetic molecules based on the genes that were created in the lab in order to deliver life-saving tests to patients.

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