WASHINGTON — Human genes may not be patented, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday. The decision is likely to reduce the cost of genetic testing for some health risks, and it may discourage investment in some forms of genetic research.
The case concerned patents held by Myriad Genetics, a Utah company, on genes that correlate with an increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The patents were challenged by scientists and doctors who said their research and ability to help patients had been frustrated.
This is a HUGE victory. What was happening is that companies would patent an important gene and then no one would allowed to use that information without paying very expensive fees to the company that discovered it if they allowed it at all.
Yes, companies that invest money into research should benefit from it but not at the cost of human lives. The BRAC test based on the the gene in dispute costs $3000. Can’t afford it? Too bad for you. Try not to get cancer, yeah? This is clearly not in the best interest of the public’s health.
Now, critics (Republicans) will cry that the Supreme Court will scare off investment in research. Bullshit. There’s still money to be made in discovering the genes that cause disease and misery and, not for nothing, there’s a quite a lot of government money being poured into medical research as well. Companies relying a little more on that instead of their own is perfectly fine so long as the populace benefits in the end. That’s what government is for: to use our collective resources to improve our lives.
Now who would object to that? Hmmmmm…..