Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Intellectual freedom

I read an article today that has made me really happy. There is a lawsuit out there aiming to abolish the patenting of genes. Companies have been engaged in a disturbing practice of patenting genes. This means that any research or clinical testing involving these genes requires a license. This concept is ridiculous! How can anyone own the rights to a gene?! Luckily many people, scientists and patients, hold the same opinion and it looks like this lawsuit might be the one to do away with gene patenting once and for all.

This week, the ACLU, several breast cancer survivors, and professional groups representing more than 150,000 scientists, sued Myriad Genetics over their breast cancer gene patents. Those genes, mutated forms of BRCA1 and BRCA2, are responsible for most cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. They’re also very lucrative, because Myriad has created something of a monopoly. It charges $3,000 per test, which often isn’t covered by insurance. No one else can offer the test, and researchers can’t develop new or cheaper ones (or new therapies for that matter) unless they get permission from Myriad and pay a steep licensing fee. So women have no choice about who performs their tests, and they can’t seek those second opinions. That is no small thing. Tests aren’t 100 percent accurate, and results sometimes come back inconclusive. Women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations have a 40 to 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer, so a positive result helps them decide whether to have their breasts and ovaries removed to prevent future cancer. But with its lawsuit, the ACLU isn’t just fighting Myriad’s patent—it hopes to end the practice of gene patenting entirely on the grounds that it’s illegal, unconstitutional, and interfering with science.
read the rest of the article by Rebecca Skloot...

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