For years private companies have been putting patents on your genes. In fact, roughly 1/5 of human genes has been patented. This potentially has huge ramifications as it can restrict research abilities to one company or at least make others wary of future pursuits. Fortunately, a federal judge has struck down much of this practice.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet challenging whether anyone can hold patents on human genes was expected to have broad implications for the biotechnology industry and genetics-based medical research.
Sweet said he invalidated the patents because DNA’s existence in an isolated form does not alter the fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes.
He rejected arguments that it was acceptable to grant patents on DNA sequences as long as they are claimed in the form of “isolated DNA.”
The specific genes this primarily affects are the BCRA1 and BRCA2 genes, both tumor suppressors. (That means damage to these genes can quickly lead to cancer.) These are highly important areas of research which women cannot afford to have restricted to one company. The ruling will surely be appealed, but it is encouraging to see the case go in this direction.