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Lawsuit Filed on Patents of Genes Associated with Breast Cancer

A lawsuit filed this week in a US District Court by the ACLU charges that patents of two genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer violate the first amendment and are invalid because genes are a “product of nature.” Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation currently hold patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes and have exclusive rights to perform diagnostic testing on the genes. Plaintiffs in the case include individual women, women’s health groups, and science associations and professionals.

Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, said in a press release: “Knowledge about our own bodies and the ability to make decisions about our health care are some of our most personal and fundamental rights….The government should not be granting private entities control over something as personal and basic to who we are as our genes. Moreover, granting patents that limit scientific research, learning and the free flow of information violates the First Amendment.”

According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 are 3 to 7 times more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer than other women.

Sources:

ACLU Press Release 5/12/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 10/14/08; National Cancer Institute

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