News of the WeekBiotechnology

Lawsuit Challenges Legal Basis For Patenting Human Genes

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Science  22 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5930, pp. 1000-1001
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1000a

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Patents have been awarded on human genes for decades, but until last week, no one had directly challenged the underlying idea that genes can be owned in a U.S. court. Now, a challenge has begun. A group of patients, doctors, and research professionals sued in New York City on 12 May to invalidate perhaps the most famous gene patents: those on BRCA1 and BRCA2, genes associated with risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The main argument in last week's legal filing in Manhattan's federal court is that BRCA1 and -2 are "products of nature" and should never have been patented.