Gene research: US court rejects patents

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Gene research: US court rejects patents: A New York court has rejected patents on genes and thus strongly influenced the conditions for future work with genes.

A New York court has rejected patents on genes and thus strongly influenced the conditions for future work with genes. There are gene patents in the USA, but also in Europe if the respective gene function could be clearly analyzed and used. It is used primarily for diagnosing diseases caused by tumors and infectious diseases and for finding a therapy at the molecular level with drugs. Examples include genes that are supposed to be associated with certain diseases such as tumors of the intestine, the occurrence of asthma and Alzheimer's disease. About a fifth of all human gene structures are said to have been patented in this way.

According to the "Handelsblatt", the consequences of this for the large companies in the pharmaceutical industry should be rather marginal. In contrast to smaller and medium-sized pharmaceutical companies, the gene segments and the patents on them only represent a small position in the development of new drugs.

In the specific case, there are several patents on genes that are supposed to be related to breast cancer. The gene sequences BRCA1 and BRCA2 are said to increase the risk of breast cancer, but also of ovarian tumors, when mutated. The US biotech company Myriad Genetics had a monopoly on the commercial use of the tests by patenting the two sections, which at around $ 3,000 cannot really be described as a bargain. The company has annual sales of approximately $ 326 million. After the verdict was announced, Myriad Genetics' share price fell briefly. The company announced revision.

Under Judge Robert Sweet, the US court in New York wrote an approximately 150-page reasoning for the judgment and argued that the rejection of patenting was based on the fact that genes are something natural and not a new discovery or invention of individual human individuals or companies.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization that campaigns for more civil rights and that sued for patentability, celebrates the judgment as a triumph. In terms of content, the reasons for the judgment coincide in part with the ethical view of the patenting of genes by representatives of naturopathy. The civil rights activists rather criticized the obstruction of research and public access. However, according to observers, the run on gene patents in the 1990s has now subsided and is no longer very pronounced. The trend is more towards publication in publicly accessible databases. (Thorsten Fischer, naturopath osteopathy, March 31, 2010)

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Video: Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics: Oral Argument - April 15, 2013

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