CSU-led study finds fewer U.S. gene patents will be affected by Supreme Court ruling than anticipated

By: Steve Friday June 14, 2013 0 comments Tags: CSU, Fort Collins, Gregory Graff

Colorado State University Logo featured 4-13FORT COLLINS - A Colorado State University-led study of U.S. patents involving human genes indicates the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the genes cannot be patented by companies will likely have less impact than originally anticipated.

CSU said one result of the study released about a month before the court's June 13 decision is that there are fewer U.S. gene patents - particularly the kinds challenged in the court case - than prior analyses had suggested.

"We caution that some of the hype and drama surrounding this case may be unwarranted and that, if overturned, the impact is unlikely to be devastating to the interests of the biotechnology industry," said CSU Professor Gregory Graff, who worked with a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota and Pennsylvania State University in analyzing the patents.

Graff's paper, "Not Quite a Myriad of Gene Patents: Assessing the Potential Impact of the U.S. Supreme Court on the Changing Landscape of U.S. Patents That Claim Nucleic Acids," was published in Nature Biotechnology in May.

Plaintiffs in the Myriad Genetics case had sought a court opinion on whether an isolated DNA molecule with a natural genetic sequence from a human genome should be considered eligible for a patent.

The court ruled Thursday that a naturally occurring piece of DNA is "a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated."

"Our intention was to give some sort of measure to the potential legal and commercial implications of what is squaring up to become a landmark patent case, one of the most significant Supreme Court cases in the biological sciences for decades," Graff said.

The study was the first to draw upon a new and massive compilation of patents related to genetics and genomics.

According to the study, 59 percent of the patents impacted by the court's decision claim sequences from non-human species.

The full paper can be viewed at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v31/n5/full/nbt.2568.html.

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