The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the human gene code cannot be patented because it is not an invention. This comes after Utah-based company Myriad Genetics tried to patent the genes that "increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer." These patents were challenged by scientists and doctors since these genes were not created by the company.
After the ruling, at least three companies and two university labs said that they would begin offering genetic testing in the field of breast cancer.
Myriad did not create anything, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court. To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.
The course of scientific research and medical testing in other fields will also be shaped by the courts ruling, which drew a sharp distinction between DNA that appears in nature and synthetic DNA created in the laboratory. That distinction may alter the sort of research and development conducted by the businesses that invest in the expensive work of understanding genetic material.
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