Patents on Genes
On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Patent and Trade Office and Myriad Genetics, challenging whether the U.S. government has the right to grant exclusive patent rights to private companies for human genes. The patenting of genes is not a new phenomenon; according to various sources such as National Geographic 20% of human genes have already been patented.
What I find interesting are the questions that arise from this case, since they have major implications for the future. Can you own the exclusive knowledge about human health? Can companies own individuals’ genes?
The plaintiffs in this case say that patents on human genes discourages new research because it creates a monopoly on knowledge; one entity essentially controls the knowledge about the human body with no competition. This raises serious health concerns because without competition, one can not get a second medical opinion, the costs for medical tests will likely remain the same, test procedures may not improve to become faster & more accurate.
Keep an eye on this case because it will likely head to the Supreme Court.