Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keep your hands off my genes

(hey! look what i invented!)

Did you know that approximately 20% of your genes are patented? It's true. Scientists who identify gene fragments or sequences are allowed to patent them. Which means nobody else can study, test, or even look at them.

(Stop looking at your hangnail! I just applied for that gene patent.)

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Myriad Genetics, the company that holds the patent for two genes related to breast and ovarian cancer. This patent is inhibiting research in these important areas and making it very expensive for women to get essential testing.

Here is a snippet from the ACLU website:

"Many women with a history of breast and ovarian cancer in their families opt to undergo genetic testing to determine if they have the mutations on their BRCA genes that put them at increased risk for these diseases. This information is critical in helping these women decide on a plan of treatment or prevention, including increased surveillance or preventive mastectomies or ovary removal. However, the fact that Myriad can exclude others from providing this testing has several negative consequences for patients: many women cannot afford the more than $3,000 Myriad charges for the test; patients cannot get second opinions on their test results; and patients whose tests come back with inconclusive results do not have the option to seek additional testing elsewhere."

Now, here is my question: What the heck?

Even though Myriad Genetics has a scary-sounding name and is probably headquartered in a big, gray, medieval-looking building in the middle of a forest, I doubt that their mad scientists managed to invent these two genes.

I mean, genes would be discovered, not invented, right? As one of the ACLU lawyers points out,
"Patenting genetic sequences is like patenting blood, air or e=mc2."

Of cour$e, there i$ probably a $olid rea$on why gene patent$ make $en$e. I $hall go $ee if I can figure it out. Back $oon.



  1. That's the heart of every problem we face, isn't it? That is crazy! To say that only I do not have a choice in where to have my genes tested is a voilation of my rights! Hubby had caught this story on the news. I'll be keeping up with this one...

  2. I agree, Lily. It's sad when money gets in the way of health, instead of supporting it. My brother-in-law sent me this story. I'll be following it as well!

  3. This is just one reason why health care costs are out of control.

  4. I'm BRCA1+ and agree, it is crazy that anyone can patent an actual human gene. When I've mentioned this to friends or family, they always, always think that I'm misinformed, got my facts mixed or am just mistaken. I wish I were! I'm sure the ACLU will win their lawsuit...the sooner the better.

    Teri S.