The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that our natural DNA can't be patented, in what the influential SCOTUSblog called "a significant patent ruling for the biotechnology industry."
The high court did strike some middle ground by ruling that cDNA, which is artificially made DNA, can be patented.
"A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring," according to the court ruling written by Justice Clarence Thomas.
Utah biotech company Myriad Genetics is at the center of the patent dispute. As strange as it might sound, the company owns the patents to two so-called isolated genes associated with increased risks of breast cancer. Myriad got the patent because it isolated the genes from the human body. (Angelina Jolie had a preventative mastectomy because she had one of these genes.)
Cancer groups went to the Supreme Court to challenge Myriad's patents for the genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, since gene patents like these essentially give companies a monopoly on testing for those genes. The groups argued that Myriad's patents stopped other groups from coming up with better and less expensive ways to test for the genes.
In ruling against Myriad, Thomas's opinion pointed out that it's clear the company didn't actually make BRCA1 and BRCA2 even though it did isolate them.
"It is undisputed that Myriad did not create or alter any of the genetic information encoded in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes," he wrote. "The location and order of the nucleotides existed in nature before Myriad found them."
That's not the case with cDNA, which is made when a lab technician removes introns from a DNA sequence. That technician "unquestionably creates something new," Thomas wrote for the majority.
BS. cDNA represents mRNA transcript. This is Central Dogma 101. Introns are spliced out to make mature mRNA. There can be splice variants of the same gene which make different proteins. This is all naturally occurring as well. What is his point? This makes no sense whatsoever. The court needs to protect the work that went into proving the gene's function and association with breast cancer. If this means providing patent protection for the gene, so be it. What they are going to do is remove the incentive to dissect pathways and gene function. With no leverage to make money, why should they slog to explore the biochemistry? As for our MSCs, it sounds like the high court could rule against Osiris as well. Who cares how much work it took to figures the MSCs out and define the function, storage, and deliver optimization, if its naturally occurring, forget it. If so, forget about the kids getting help with their GvHD unless we plan to rely on a government lab to do all of this.