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Myriad Genetics

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Because of Angelina Jolie’s revelation, the Myriad Genetics case is in the news again. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up. Because of the patent Myriad can charge thousands of dollars for a test which would otherwise be much cheaper (and putting it out of reach of many without health insurance). My question here is simple: if you are a geneticist do you think Myriad’s position has any validity? The reason I ask is that I know many geneticists, and I know many geneticists read me, and I follow many geneticists on Twitter, but I’ve never encountered one who would be willing to defend Myriad’s position as plausible and passing the smell test. If you are one of those geneticists please leave a comment, because I’m honestly curious.

I went to the talks about the Myriad case at ASHG, and I have to say it was all law, and no science. The science was confused and laughable. The panelists themselves rolled their eyes and expressed resignation as to the garbled ratiocinations of the judges who reviewed the case. There is a classic “two cultures” problem.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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Court to Decide if Human Genes Can Be Patented. So it seems a group of middle aged to very aged lawyers will decide the decades long Myriad Genetics saga. My position on this issue is simple: if you are going to award patents, they must be awarded to acts of engineering, not discoveries of science. See Genomics Law Report for more well informed commentary.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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As you may know the interminable Myriad genetics patents case has been making waves in the courts, most recently with mixed results as to whether their patents on several specific genetic diagnostics are valid. This aspect needs to be highlighted:

One of the three deciding judges, William Bryson, dissents in part from the majority opinion, arguing that Myriad’s claims to the BRCA gene and gene fragments are not valid. He writes that he feared that if the majority opinion stands, it “will likely have broad consequences, such as preempting methods for whole-genome sequencing.”

This is legalistic hyperbole. If “gene patents” become so ridiculous that whole-genome sequencing becomes unfeasible then the system of intellectual property is going to come crashing down. And whole-genome (and exome) sequencing is not that far off. The Myriad case feels so 2002 to me. It reminds me of another instance where the sluggishness of the legal process was such that the dispute became a moot point because of the march of technological history: the GIF. A particular company owned the rights to the GIF’s compression technique. But over the years the GIF became a marginal format, and the controversy just faded away.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Human Genetics, Human Genomics, Myriad Genetics 
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Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com"