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ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

 
entropy
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05/13/2009 04:04 AM
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ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes
[link to www.cnn.com]
# Story Highlights
# ACLU sues on behalf of universities, genetic specialists and medical associations
# It says patenting genes is unconstitutional, inhibits ability to find cancer cure
# Patents give company exclusive right to perform diagnostic tests on the genes
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Patents on two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancers are being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that patenting pure genes is unconstitutional and hinders research for a cancer cure.
"Knowledge about our own bodies and the ability to make decisions about our health care are some of our most personal and fundamental rights," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "The government should not be granting private entities control over something as personal and basic to who we are as our genes."

The ACLU, joined by Yeshiva University's law school, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in southern New York against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation.

Myriad and the research foundation hold patents on the pair of genes -- known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 -- that are responsible for many cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

The ACLU contends that patenting the genes limits research and the free flow of information, and as a result violates the First Amendment. The lawsuit also challenges genetic patenting in general, noting that about 20 percent of all human genes are patented -- including genes associated with Alzheimer's disease, muscular dystrophy and asthma.

"It is absolutely our intent that upon victory this will rend invalid patents on many other genes," said Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation and a patent law professor at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. "We just had to pick one case as our case."

Ravicher offered an analogy to describe the plaintiffs' argument, saying, "It's like saying if someone removes your eyeball ... just because you remove the eyeball and wash it off, that doesn't make the eyeball patentable.
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"Now if they create another eyeball out of plastic or metal, then you can patent that."

Officials at Myriad declined to comment. Tom Parks, the president of the University of Utah foundation, said he was not aware of the lawsuit.

More than 192,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year -- about 5 to 10 percent of those cases have a hereditary form of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. Mutation in the genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 -- short for breast cancer 1 and breast cancer 2 -- are involved in many cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, the institute said.

"A woman's lifetime chance of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits an altered BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene," according to the institute.

Myriad's patents give it exclusive right to perform diagnostic tests on the genes -- forcing other researchers to request permission from the company before they can take a look at BRCA1 and BRCA2, the ACLU said. The patents also give the company the rights to future mutations on the BRCA2 gene and the power to exclude others from providing genetic testing.

The company also charged $3,000 a test, possibly keeping some women from seeking preventive genetic testing, the ACLU says.

"Women whose doctors recommend genetic testing should be able to find out whether they have the gene mutations linked to breast and ovarian cancer so that they are able to make choices that could save their lives, and these patents interfere with their ability to do so," said Lenora Lapidus, director of ACLU's Women's Rights Project.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include several patients and more than a dozen universities, genetic specialists and medical associations, such as the Association for Molecular Pathology and the American College of Medical Genetics.

At least one expert said the ACLU should focus more on getting the patents reversed than arguing whether they are constitutional.

"I doubt they're going to get far with argument that the patent is unconstitutional," said Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

"A better argument would be that they were wrong when they granted the patent," he added referring to the patent office.

Caplan said patents are privileges, not "carved in stone." He noted that the defendants may have identified the genes, but didn't actually work on them. So, the government could reverse the patents on the genes.

"It's like trying to patent the moon," he said. "You didn't do anything to create it, just discovered something that already existed. You can't patent things that are publicly available, that anyone can find. You have to create something, make something, do something with the thing."
[link to www.cnn.com]

Last Edited by entropy on 05/13/2009 04:04 AM
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Anonymous Coward
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05/13/2009 04:06 AM
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Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes
How the fuck can anyone patent anything they did not create themselves? WHY allow it? My genetic code belongs to ME.
Anonymous Coward
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05/13/2009 09:01 AM
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Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes
bump
Anonymous Coward
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05/13/2009 09:04 AM
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Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes
How the fuck can anyone patent anything they did not create themselves? WHY allow it? My genetic code belongs to ME.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 670454


Molecular biologists are all narcissists. Didn't you know that was a requirement to enter the field?
Andromeda

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05/13/2009 09:10 AM
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Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes
How the fuck can anyone patent anything they did not create themselves? WHY allow it? My genetic code belongs to ME.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 670454

Actually this is true.

If you find a cool rock on your property, and it does amazing things like cure slipped discs when put on your spine, you still can't patent it.

One can only patent inventions, things created and made or envisioned by man. You cannot patent a natural molecule, like calcium.

What the hell is the patent office doing issuing patents on naturally occurring genes?

The patentable subject matter criterion requires that the invention fall within the scope of inventions that Congress has designed the patent laws to protect. In § 101 of Title 35, Congress provides, "Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title." Because of this broad definition, the United States Supreme Court has focused on categories that do not fall within the patentable subject matter requirement. These categories include the following: 1) laws of nature; 2) natural phenomena; and 3) abstract ideas.

[link to topics.law.cornell.edu]

How did these companies get patents issued on naturally occurring genes?
Anonymous Coward
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05/13/2009 09:27 AM
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Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes
you mean the aclu is in a case that doesnt involves fags for once?
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 675152
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05/13/2009 09:34 AM
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Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes
Yeaah!

When I first heard about big pharma's researchers patenting genetic materiall, I though "How can they do that, they didn't make it, they didn't create it, they just put a name (their name) on a piece of nature and called that they have exclusive rights to it."
The Guy
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User ID: 676661
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05/13/2009 09:35 AM

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Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes
The ACLU and I agree on this one.
It's good to be open-minded, just don't let your brain fall out.
Anonymous Coward
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05/13/2009 09:49 AM
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Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes
If these companies own the genes can we sue for medical costs to treat any defects?

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