CSU-led study shows expected Supreme Court ban on gene patents may not have dramatic impact

By: Steve Friday May 10, 2013 0 comments Tags: biotechnology, Fort Collins, gene patents, Gregory Graff, Myriad Genetics, U.S. Supreme Court

Colorado State University Fort Collins Colorado logoFORT COLLINS - A study led by Colorado State University is being considered in an expected landmark Supreme Court decision this summer on gene patents.

Plaintiffs in a case filed against Myriad Genetics are seeking a decision as to whether an isolated DNA molecule with a natural genetic sequence from the human genome should be considered eligible to be patented.

The patent study was led by Gregory Graff, associate professor of agriculture and resource economics at CSU, with the help of a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota and Pennsylvania State University.

The study analyzed U.S. patents and found the case may not have the dramatic impact some in the biotechnology industry fear, CSU said.

However, the study also found that the Supreme Court decision could have unanticipated impacts on patents that claims sequences from non-human species.

"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 is the first to draw on a new and massive worldwide compilation of patents related to genetics and genomics put together by Graff and collaborators at the International Science and Technology Practice and Policy Center at the University of Minnesota with funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Results of the study show there are fewer U.S. gene patents - particularly the kinds being challenged in the Myriad case - than prior analysis suggested.

"We caution that some of the hype and drama surrounding the case may be unwarranted and that, if overturned, the impact is unlikely to be devastating to the interests of the biotechnology industry," Graff said.

"This finding poses a serious question that the U.S. Supreme Court will need to resolve because the Myriad case is, supposedly, only looking at whether human genes are patentable," he said. "According to our results, there appears to be no simple way, given the logic of genetics or of patent law, to make a clean distinction between the small number of patents that claim human sequences and the larger number of patents that claim sequences from other species."

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

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