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Avoid the Hustle

Can a company patent a human gene?

Category: Essay Writing

module 4 Assignment

Paper details

Focus on Health Care Technology: Gene Patents

Can a company patent a human gene? According to a federal appeals court, they can. In fact, 80 percent of our genes are patented and “owned” by companies. The latest battle has been with biotechnology company Myriad Genetics. Myriad has been fighting for several years over its patents for two genes—BRCA1 and BRCA2—that the company has isolated and found to signal a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. The process of isolating genes is complex and very costly, and patenting the isolated genes allows Myriad exclusivity in providing genetic screenings for these diseases. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit claiming that Myriad is trying to patent “products of nature” and that many women will not be able to afford potentially life-saving screening. Legal experts predicted that a loss for Myriad in this case would have severely threatened DNA-related research in the agricultural, biopharmaceutical, and cosmetics industries. Dissenters argue that patents limit genetic research because only the patent owners are allowed to conduct research on those genes.

See the 60 Minutes video: www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6362525n. Note that this video is from 2010, and Myriad won its appeal in 2012. Find information on the 2012 decision in favor of Myriad’s patent: www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/16/us-myriad-patent-idUSBRE87F12K20120816

The key advantage given by any patent is protection for competition for a period of time. For example, Myriad has protection from competitors until 2018. For a comprehensive explanation of how gene patenting works, a history of genetic patents, and several examples, see: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/genetic/gene-patent.htm

Identify the type of competitive advantage this provides and explain how a patent gives a company a value discipline.

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