Supreme Court Rules Human Genes Cannot Be Patented


The Supreme Court ruled today that the building blocks of life are not eligible for patent (Alex Brandon/AP)

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that human genes isolated from the body cannot be patented. The decision involved the Utah-based company Myriad Genetics, which held patents on two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that can indicate a woman’s risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. The court said that “a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature,” and that natural phenomena are not legally patentable.

The ruling is a victory for scientists and doctors who argue that patents interfere with research and medical care. Its impact on the biotechnology industry could be profound.


Eric Lander, President and Founding Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a biomedical and genomic research center.

George Annas, Chair of the Department of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights at BU’s School of Public Health.

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