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Sandra Fryhofer, MD

Supreme Court Rules Against Patents on Human Genes

By Sandra Fryhofer, MDPosted June 14, 2013 3:21pm (EDT)
Supreme Court Rules Against Patents on Human Genes

Who holds the rights to your DNA?

The Supreme Court says you do! This is a big victory for cancer research.

Genetic testing has been in the spotlight since Angelina Jolie's recent preventive mastectomy to cut her cancer risk. She made this decision after testing positive for the BRCA gene mutation, which dramatically increased her risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Until now, Myriad Genetics has been the sole provider of BRCA gene testing, charging at least $3000. Jolie could afford it. But this was a hefty price tag for many women. Now they have options.

The Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that human genes cannot be patented opens the door for competition. Genetic testing will likely become a lot less expensive when more companies can offer the service and set competitive rates.

Media reports say the company DNA Traits is doing just that, and plans to offer the test for $995, a 75% savings!

Over the last 30 years, the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted more than 40,000 gene-related patents. Many of those patents are now invalid because of the ruling, but it’s not the end of patent opportunities in genetic testing. As more companies get involved in genetic testing, genetic research, and curing disease by "fixing" genes, altering a gene could qualify for a patent.

The Supreme Court ruling is a win-win for patients and marks a new era in personalized medicine- using genetic information to diagnose, treat, and cure disease.

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