Due to the weather, some customers may experience late delivery of The Roanoke Times. We apologize for the delay.
A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court offers clarity and compassion on genetic research.
Monday, June 17, 2013
To say that the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of patents on human genes will save patients money by stimulating competition for costly medical tests is true, but vastly understates the full consequences of last week’s ruling.
Factor in the priceless peace of mind for women and men who now lack the ability to seek second opinions about their health. Then consider the metamorphosis of medical research that will be unleashed, saving countless lives with tests and treatment now unimagined.
The court eliminated one anxiety for individuals who already have too many to bear. But it also ended doubts about the future for biotechnology companies needing clearer rules on patenting and certainty about their profitability.
The right-minded ruling liberates scientists to seek innovations and breakthroughs in medical research while still allowing financial benefits to corporations by approving for the first time the patenting of synthetic DNA.
The case grew out of Myriad Genetics Inc.’s expansive patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women. Myriad researchers extracted those genes from miles of human DNA and used them to compare with the genes of patients who have a family history of those cancers. The tests cost about $3,000 apiece, but some critics contend the expense to administer each one is less than $200.
Now that Myriad’s monopoly on the gene has been rejected by the court, patients should soon be able to obtain multiple tests at a substantially smaller expense before deciding whether to seek aggressive treatments such as mastectomies.
Those at risk of breast and ovarian cancers may be the most obvious beneficiaries of this ruling today, but the positive repercussions will extend to many thousands, perhaps millions, of patients and their families.
Weather JournalNew batch of moisture for PM