Breast Cancer Action invites all Floridians concerned about the right of corporations to patent human genes to join them for a rally on the Supreme Court steps.
On April 15th, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a landmark case involving Myriad Genetics, a private Utah-based biotechnology company that has patented breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2.
The case has been winding its way through the lower courts since 2009 when the Association for Molecular Pathology filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York seeking to overturn the patents on DNA isolated from these two human genes which increase a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Right now Myriad Genetics has a legal monopoly for 20 years (the life of the patent) to use these genes in breast cancer research, diagnostic tests and treatment.
Additional defendants include the University of Utah Research Foundation, which had come to own the patents, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), which had granted them. Myriad argues that without the ability to have their monopoly, their business would be negatively affected
On the other side of the case (the plaintiffs) are biomedical researchers, medical geneticists and counselors, pathologists, advocates for women’s health like Breast Cancer Action, as well as several women with breast cancer or at risk for it.
These plaintiffs argue that no one should be able to patent human DNA, that Myriad’s enforcement of its patents interferes with the progress of science and the delivery of medical services..
The legal issues deal with complicated patent law questions that have arisen as scientists are increasingly able to isolate human genes. About 2000 such genes have been patented in the United States before this suit was filed . Unfortunately there has never been a national discussion about the potential implications - especially negative effects on patients - of gene patents.
According to spokespeople at BCA, “allowing corporations to patent human genes is wrong and is actively harming women’s health. When a corporation controls human genes, corporate profits will always come before our health.”
BCA suggests people interested in participating in their rally gather at 9:00 am. The event will begin at 9:30 am and end at 11:00 am. In addition to banners and signs, there will be speeches from BCA staff staff, members and other women’s health activists voicing their views about the case.