The discovery of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes has brought hope to millions of women around the world. Now, men and women who are genetically predisposed to breast cancer can make the right choices when it comes to their health. They know they have to be vigilant in performing breast self examination frequently and subject themselves to a mammogram at least every year.
But what happens when the BRCA 1 and BRCA2 genes become patented?
The Australian Federal Court has ruled for Myriad Genetics and Genetic Technologies, making it legal to patent the breast cancer gene. Cancer advocates around the world have expressed their outrage about the decision and have lent their support for Ms. Yvonne D’Arcy, a two time cancer survivor, who has filed the suit against the genetics company. According to her, the High Court’s decision wasn’t just against her, but it was against millions of people who will suffer the increased prices of gene testing and treatments once the company has patented the genes.
A similar case has been filed in the United States last June, also against US Based Myriad Genetics. However, the US Supreme Court ruled against the company saying” Myriad did not create anything…to be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.” In most countries, it is against the law to patent anything that occurs naturally such as blood and in this case, genes.
There is no doubt that legally “owning” the gene will give the company permission to make profit out of it. We hope that the Australian Court will consider Ms. D’Arcy’s appeal in the name of all the men and women who can be saved from breast cancer.