The Supreme Court has ruled that genes can’t be patented.
A Colorado State University Associate Professor recently worked with a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota and Pennsylvania State University to analyze U.S. patents. They found that the case may not have the dramatic impact some in the biotechnology industry have feared. Still, they caution that while attention is currently focused on human genetic diagnostics, the decision may have unanticipated impacts on patents that claim sequences from species well beyond just humans.
According to the study, there are fewer U.S. gene patents than previously suggested. The study also found that the majority of gene patents actually claim genes from other organisms – ranging from mice to corn to microbes. In fact, 59-percent of the patents impacted by the court’s decision claim sequences from non-human species.
The study’s third key finding is that applicants appear to have been moving away from making the kinds of patent claims at greatest legal risk in this case for the past decade.The plaintiffs in the Myriad Genetics case sought a resolution as to whether or not an isolated DNA molecule with a natural genetic sequence from the human genome should be considered eligible to be patented.
The research team conducted a comprehensive, in-depth review of the number and types of U.S. patents that make the kind of claims to DNA that were being challenged. CSU Associate Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics Gregory Graff says the goal was to give some sort of measure to the potential legal and commercial implications of what is squaring up to become a landmark patent case – one of the most significant Supreme Court cases in the biological sciences for decades.