Can medical companies patent human genes? Supreme Court hears key case

The US Supreme Court is scheduled on Monday to take up a case with widespread implications for scientific innovation and health care in the US. The question: Are human genes patentable?

The issue arises in a challenge to patents held by Myriad Genetics, a Utah-based diagnostic testing and research firm that developed a way to detect genetic mutations (called BRCA1 and BRCA2) that scientists associate with a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The process is described by the company‚Äôs lawyers as akin to locating a particular grain of sand in a space the size of the Empire State Building. The tests have helped over a million patients identify risks and develop treatment strategies….

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