Who holds the patent for YOUR BRCA1?

Here is a link to a recent Ben Goldacre article that has sat dormant in my bookmarks folder all month. In it, he applauds the overturning of several patents for a gene related to breast cancer, which had previously been awarded to a company called Myriad. This is a particularly good piece because it concisely and precisely articulates some of the major problems with granting patents for artifacts of life. Instead of approaching the issue as a metaethical opposition to patents on life in general, he takes aim at the practice by providing three specific arguments for why it is ridiculous to grant a patent for the BRCA1 gene (often pronounced "brack-ah-one" when spoken by scientists). Yet through this example, we can infer other cases when it might be a bad idea to grant patents for life processes (a practice we have permitted since 1980's notorious Diamond v. Chakrabarty Supreme Court ruling).

It's nice to see further examples besides the "yuck factor" for why patenting genes is such a terrible practice, and I look forward to finishing the semester so I can do a bit more of the legwork in that area! In the meantime, thanks to Dr. Goldacre for doing it for me.

For more about the Myriad patent case, look here.

For more arguments against patents on life, look here.

For more arguments in favor of gene patents, look here.

Published on May 29, 2010 in Medicine

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