Natural DNA Cannot Be Patented, Supreme Court Rules | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Natural DNA Cannot Be Patented, Supreme Court Rules

In a decision that could have broad-reaching effects on the future of science and medicine, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that:

-- "A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated."

-- But, synthetically created "strands of nucleotides known as composite DNA (cDNA)" are "patent eligible" because they do not occur naturally.

The case, as NPR's Nina Totenberg has reported, revolved around Myriad Genetics, a Utah biotechnology company that:

"Discovered and isolated two genes — BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 — that are highly associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad patented its discovery, giving it a 20-year monopoly over use of the genes for research, diagnostics and treatment. A group of researchers, medical groups and patients sued, challenging the patent as invalid."

The court's unanimous decision Thursday, Reuters writes, was "a mixed ruling. ... The nine justices reached a compromise by saying synthetically produced genetic material can be patented but that genes extracted from the human body, known as isolated DNA, do not merit the same legal protections."

Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas says that "we merely hold that genes and the information they encode are not patent eligible ... because they have been isolated from the surrounding genetic material."

Watch for more on the decision and its ramifications on The Shots blog.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Mia Wasikowska On The Sounds Of Camels And The Lure Of Travel

Melissa Block talks with actress Mia Wasikowska about her new film, Tracks, which follows a woman on a long journey with only camels and a dog for company.
NPR

Giving Chickens Bacteria ... To Keep Them Antibiotic-Free

What does it take to get chickens off antibiotics? According to Perdue Farms, an added dose of the "good bacteria" known as probiotics can help crowd out the harmful microbes that make a chicken sick.
NPR

Why Did Congress Kick The Can On Funding Islamic State Mission?

The president got approval for his plan to train and equip Syrian opposition fighters, but lawmakers didn't approve funds to pay for it or the broader air campaign.
NPR

Some Tech Firms Capitalize On Privacy

Steve Henn of NPR's Planet Money team profiles some entrepreneurs who are working on a novel business model to start up a new tech company. It's pay for service. What a concept.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.