Challenge to cancer gene patent fails in Australia

An Australian court Friday dismissed a challenge against the patenting of human genetic material in a landmark case which has devastated a cancer group that says it could stifle research.

The case hinged on whether a valid patent can be granted to cover naturally occurring , the building blocks of living organisms—in this case the so-called BRCA1.

Federal Court Justice John Nicholas rejected the argument that BRCA1, a genetic mutation associated with an increased risk of breast and in women, could not be patented because it was a naturally occurring substance.

He ruled instead in favour of the two medical research companies that hold the patent, US-based Myriad Genetics and Melbourne-based Genetic Technologies Ltd.

"There is no doubt that naturally occurring DNA and RNA as they exist inside the cells of the human body cannot be the subject of a valid patent," his judgement concluded. DNA and RNA are types of nucleic acid.

"However, the disputed claims do not cover naturally occurring DNA and RNA as they exist inside such cells.

"The disputed claims extend only to naturally occurring DNA and RNA which have been extracted from cells obtained from the human body and purged of other biological materials with which they were associated."

The decision is the first in the country to consider whether isolated DNA or can be patented and lawyers for Cancer Voices Australia, which brought the case, have argued it raises ethical issues about the commercialisation of the human body.

The judgement is a blow to the cancer campaigners, with the woman who brought the case, Yvonne D'Arcy, leaving the court in tears.

"To tell the truth I'm very disappointed," she told reporters. "We were doing this for future generations, and I'm just so disappointed."

Cancer Voices Australia also expressed its disappointment in losing the case which it said was for people with all diseases with .

"We think that is it very important that information about people's genes (and) genetic makeup be freely available to researchers, not only in Australia, but around the world," Cancer Voices' John Stubbs told the ABC.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US court to decide if human genes can be patented

Nov 30, 2012

The Supreme Court announced Friday it will decide whether companies can patent human genes, a decision that could reshape medical research in the United States and the fight against diseases like breast and ovarian cancer.

High court throws out human gene patents

Mar 26, 2012

(AP) -- The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling allowing human genes to be patented, a topic of enormous interest to cancer researchers, patients and drug makers.

Myriad can patent breast cancer genes: US court

Jul 30, 2011

A federal appeals court on Friday ruled in favor of Myriad Genetics after a legal battle over whether the US company could keep its patent on genes linked to an inherited form of breast cancer.

Map reveals cancer hotspots

Feb 22, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- A new technique is helping researchers to pinpoint genetic information that contributes to cancer development.

US judge strikes down patent on cancer genes

Mar 29, 2010

(AP) -- In a ruling with potentially far-reaching implications for the patenting of human genes, a judge on Monday struck down a company's patents on two genes linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Recommended for you

Aspirin may lower the risk for aggressive prostate cancer

2 minutes ago

Use of aspirin and/or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) was associated with a reduced risk for aggressive prostate cancer in men who had elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) and a negative biopsy prior ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SDrapak
not rated yet Feb 15, 2013
The problem is that if you take away the financial reasons for companies to develop therapies, they have no reason to pursue them. Even the most well-intentioned company needs money or it will cease to exist. So there has to be a balance between encouraging research and patents that are used for greed rather than helping the general population.
That being said, there are always people and companies that will ignore patents and go ahead and do what they want anyway.