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   COURT: CAN HUMAN GENES BE PATENTED?

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4/15/2013 12:30 pm

Author

JESSE J. HOLLAND

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News

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Entered 4/15/2013, Updated 4/15/2013

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seemed worried Monday about the idea of companies patenting genes that can be found inside the human body, as it heard arguments in a case that could profoundly reshape U.S. medical research and the fight against diseases like breast and ovarian cancer. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes for almost 30 years, but opponents of Myriad Genetics Inc.'s patents on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer say patent protection should not be given to something that can be found inside the human body. "Finding a new use for a product of nature, if you don't change the product of nature, is not patentable. If I find a new way of taking gold and making earrings out of it, that doesn't entitle me to a patent on gold. If I find a new way of using lead, it doesn't entitle me to a patent on lead," lawyer Christopher Hansen said. Allowing companies like Myriad to patent human genes or parts of human genes will slow down or cripple lifesaving medical research like in the battle against breast cancer, he said.


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