Breast Cancer Gene Patent Evokes Controversy

A coalition of women’s groups and cancer advocacy groups are opposing a move by Myriad Genetics to patent the breast cancer gene known as BRCA1. The coalition argues that creating a patent would mean Myriad would control and possibly impede research on the gene. Other cancer advocacy groups have supported the patent application, citing Myriad’s financial investment in the research and the likelihood that investors will not contribute to gene therapy research unless the gene has patent protection. The coalition opposing the patent, organized by biotechnology opponent Jeremy Rifkin, claims that the government will continue to pay for the gene research. Rifkin’s coalition maintains a gene is not an invention to be patented, although many genes already have patents.

BRCA1 was discovered in 1994 to be linked with breast cancer. Myriad has plans to offer a BRCA1 screening test later this year, which would cost about $900.


The New York Times News Service - May 21, 1996

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