Supreme Court Says Human Genes Can't Be Patented

The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that segments of naturally-occurring human genes cannot be patented. The ruling may change the focus of genomic research, but it won't stop it.

Professor Andrew Torrance specializes in biotechnology patent law at the University of Kansas. He says the ruling falls hardest on companies that have invested billions of dollars, hoping to profit from patents on human gene fragments like those that help reveal a person’s risk for breast cancer.

Should we bring back the passenger pigeon and the woolly mammoth?

Ethicists, scientists, lawyers and biologists gathered at Stanford University for a day-long conference to discuss whether we should bring back species that have been extinct over the past several thousand years. A USA Today story on the conference quoted Andrew Torrance, professor of law, who participated:

The legal issues that will surround revived species are very unclear, said Andrew Torrance, a law professor at the University of Kansas and former biotech patent lawyer. But in general, he thinks "there are no solid legal barriers yet to de-extinction."

Supreme Court: US genes patent decision may depend on strands in Myriad argument

In June, the Supreme Court will release its decision on whether genes may be patented, which will have a far-reaching impact on the biotechnology industry. A Financial Times article on the subject quoted Andrew Torrance, professor of law.

Kirchgaessner wrote:

"It was obvious from the questions they asked and analogies that they dreamt up that the nine US Supreme Court justices hearing one of the most important and complex patent cases in a decade were not wholly comfortable with the subject at hand.

Who Owns Your Genes?

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case today that could decide whether human genes can be patented.  But the case is about more than just genetics.  It’s about how medical research gets funded, who profits from it, and who has access to its benefits.  Health Reporter Bryan Thompson sat down with University of Kansas Law Professor Andrew Torrance, who specializes in biotechnology patent law, for some clarification.

Biotech Industry at Stake in Human Gene Patent Decision

An article discussing the Supreme Court's plan to rule on whether human genes can be patented featured commentary from Andrew Torrance, professor of law.

“There is a strong aversion to patents that cover any aspect of the human body,” said Andrew Torrance, who teaches patent and biodiversity law at the University of Kansas and is a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s a gut-level principle. We don’t like the thought of humans as property, and we think of patents as property.”


Subscribe to RSS - Torrance
Why KU
  • One-third of full-time faculty have written casebooks used at U.S. law schools
  • 2 KU law faculty were U.S. Supreme Court clerks
  • KU’s Project for Innocence: 33 conviction reversals since 2009
  • 7,300+ alumni live in all 50 states and 18 foreign countries
  • #18 “best value” law school in the nation — National Jurist Magazine
  • 12 interdisciplinary joint degrees
  • 27th nationwide for lowest debt at graduation. — U.S. News & World Report
  • 70 percent of upper-level law classes have 25 or fewer students
  • Nearly 800 employment interviews at law school, 2012-13
  • Top 25% for number of 2013 grads hired by the nation’s largest law firms
  • 20th: for number of law alumni promoted to partner at the 250 largest law firms