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United States Supreme Court Strikes Down Patents on Naturally Occurring DNA

Posted by on Aug 7, 2013 in Blog, Patent

On June 13, 2013 the United Stated Supreme Court entered a unanimous ruling in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.  In this case the Association for Molecular Pathology, and other petitioners, challenged that Myriad’s patents for isolated DNA sequences associated with predisposition to different cancers and the methods to diagnose them were invalid because they covered products of nature.  Oral arguments for the case were on April 15, 2013 and Justice Thomas’s opinion was a concise 18 pages. Myriad’s patents had given them the exclusive right to isolate an individual’s BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and then synthetically create BRCA composite DNA (cDNA).  The cDNA only contains exons, nucleotides which code for amino acids.  cDNA is made from mRNA in a lab, as cDNA does not exist in the human body.  Using these discoveries Myriad developed tests which could detect mutations in BRCA genes to predict an increased risk of cancer.  Myriad then used its patents to stop laboratories from using similar tests on BRCA genes, giving Myriad a monopoly.  The Petitioners in this case sued to invalidate the patents and therefore break down the monopoly and bring down testing prices. The US Supreme Court held naturally occurring DNA segments are a product of nature and cannot be...

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