US & World

Supreme Court: Human genes cannot be patented (Read the full decision)

An artist's representation of DNA.
An artist's representation of DNA.

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The Supreme Court says companies cannot patent human genes, a decision that could profoundly affect the medical and biotechnology industries.

In a unanimous decision, the court struck down patents held by Myriad Genetics Inc. on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Those patents cover the same gene Angelina Jolie recently announced that she carried and led her to get a double mastectomy.

Opponents say patent protection shouldn't be given to something that can be found inside the human body.

But lower courts approved, saying Myriad's genes could be patented because the DNA it isolated and took from the body has a "markedly different chemical structure" from DNA found naturally within the body.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the DNA is a product of nature and not eligible for a patent merely because it has been isolated.


Oral arguments on gene patenting from the Supreme Court