Can Large Companies Own Human Genes? The Supreme Court Says Noâ€¦Yesâ€¦Well Maybeâ€¦It Depends.
By Tyler P. Hite This summer the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous 9-0 decision invalidating Myriad Geneticsâ€™ patent of the human genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 found in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), but validating Myriadâ€™s genetic patents of synthetically created composite deoxyribonucleic acid (cDNA). The Courtâ€™s reasoning hinged upon the fact that human genes found in DNA are â€œnaturally occurringâ€ and thus not eligible for patent, even though isolating human genes from DNA severs naturally occurring chemical bonds, thus altering but not re-creating anything new. cDNA, which the court deemed to be synthetically created from DNA by lab technicians, is created from naturally occurring DNA through a process which splits the DNA double helix and allows lab technicians to isolate specific genes for study, manipulation, and use. The Supreme Courtâ€™s decision allows for the patent of human genes that are deemed â€œnot naturally occurring,â€ even though â€œthe nucleotide sequence of cDNA is dictated by nature, not by the lab technician.â€