Supreme Debate: Are Human Genes Patentable?


On April 15, 2013, tackling an issue of significant importance to the biotechnology and health care industries, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments over whether human genes are patentable and more specifically, whether isolated DNA is patentable.

The debate in the case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., U.S., No. 12-398, centered around whether isolated DNA encoding BRCA1 polypeptides are unpatentable as products of nature. The patent at issue covers the isolated DNA molecules used for testing breast and ovarian cancer risk, which the Association for Molecular Pathology argued are not eligible for patents under 35 U.S.C. §101 because they are DNA found in nature. Myriad defended the patent as claiming isolated and extracted molecules created by the inventors as products of “manipulation.”

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