Judge: You Can t Own Genes

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Federal District Judge Robert Sweet ruled that human genes cannot be patented, calling into question decades of precedent and thousands of biotechnology patents.

Yesterday we mentioned the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, says Stier. One of the issues tackled in that book is not only getting permission for donation of cells or tissue, but whether the outcomes of that research can be patented. We know you can patent a chemical or drug, but if you re able to isolate a gene and develop a genetic test, can you patent that? This Judge found that you can t.

This is going to set back research. Yes, there are two sides to this issue: you don t want one company to have exclusive access to a certain gene, but you do want to protect intellectual property. In this case, the pendulum swung pretty far away from the protection of intellectual property. Had a company not been able to isolate those genes and test for them, we wouldn t have all the progress we ve had as a result of their research. And if they re not allowed to protect their intellectual property, who s going to invest in that research in the first place?