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

Financial Times
Stephanie Kirchgaessner
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

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.

The question before them – whether human genes could be patented – seems straightforward on the surface. Yet as the arguments turned to talk of recombinant DNA and whether isolated DNA fragments were found in nature or were a product of man, the judges quickly turned to quizzing attorneys with more accessible analogies involving baseball bats and chocolate chip cookies.


Scientific and legal experts are trying to gauge just how disruptive the case may be. Before it was heard, one patent expert predicted the results could be disastrous.

“Synthetic DNA sequences, designed by humans, may be excluded from this prohibition but the invalidation of patents claiming human genes will wipe out vast amounts of private investment, and be a body blow to the biotechnology industry,” says Andrew Torrance, professor at the University of Kansas law school."

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