Sunday, January 10, 2010

LA Times editorial opposes Myriad position in BRCA case on policy grounds

The gist of the Los Angeles Times editorial is that the position of Myriad should be opposed on POLICY grounds:

The public clearly benefits from the investments that private companies make in genetic research. But it doesn't necessarily follow that barring patents for gene sequences would lead to fewer breakthroughs on genes and their correlations with disease. There is a virtually insatiable demand for better diagnostic tools and more efficient and effective treatments. The amount we know about health and disease pales in comparison to what we don't know. This demand for advancement provides a powerful incentive for companies to seek their fortunes in discoveries. Even if a gene can't be patented, its discovery can lead to diagnostic and treatment techniques that can be.

That's a policy choice, though, not a legal issue. It amounts to a judgment call about whether it's right to give a company control over access to essential pieces of information about the body's natural programming, and whether it makes sense to trust that company to share the information freely with researchers and license it widely to competitors. On both of those questions, we think the answer is no.

Of course, that means that the answer is properly decided by the legislature, not by the judiciary. And, in fact, the next lines in the editorial are:

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) proposed a bill in 2007 that would bar gene patents, but it never made it out of a House Judiciary subcommittee. He's on the right track, and he should try again.

The legal case is questionable.


Ruling in Myriad/BRCA case: can anyone challenge any patent at any time?


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