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Court: Can human genes be patented?

Published 12:30pm Monday, April 15, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court seems worried about the idea of companies getting patents for genes found inside the human body.

Justices on Monday grappled with whether to overturn Myriad Genetics Inc.’s patents on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The company sells a test that can indicate whether women have a higher risk of such cancers.

Myriad’s opponents say companies shouldn’t be allowed to patent something found inside the human body.

But Myriad says it needs to be able to recoup millions of dollars it has invested. Its lawyer also argued that the identification and isolation of the genes made them patent-eligible.

Several justices did not seem to agree. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said if a new way was found to isolate a cookie’s ingredients, for instance, a company still wouldn’t be able to patent flour, eggs or salt.


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