U.S. GOVERNMENT FILES BRIEF IN PUBPAT/ACLU GENE PATENTING CASENEW YORK -- October 30, 2010 -- The U.S. government filed a friend-of-the-court brief late Friday in a lawsuit brought by the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and the American Civil Liberties Union challenging patents on human genes. The government agreed with the groups that isolated DNA is not patentable.
PUBPAT and the ACLU filed the lawsuit in May 2009 challenging the patents held by Myriad Genetics on the human genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The lawsuit charged that the patents stifle diagnostic testing and research that could lead to cures and that they limit women's options regarding their medical care. A federal court ruled in March 2010 that the patents on BRCA1 and 2 are invalid, and Myriad is appealing that ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
According to the government’s brief, “The chemical structure of native human genes is a product of nature, and it is no less a product of nature when that structure is ‘isolated’ from its natural environment than are cotton fibers that have been separated from cotton seeds or coal that has been extracted from the earth.”
Daniel B. Ravicher, Executive Director of PUBPAT, said, “The U.S. brief is a substantial confirmation of our views and Judge Sweet's decision. The impact of the U.S. now taking the position that isolated or purified genetic sequences are indeed not patentable is a substantial boon for society and the biotech industry.”
Sandra Park, staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and a lawyer on the case said, “We are extremely gratified that the government has agreed with us that genes are products of nature and therefore not patentable. Gene patents restrict patients’ access to their own genetic information and chill important research. The lower court correctly found that no one should be able to patent human genes, and we are confident the appeals court will uphold that decision.”
Attorneys on the case include Ravicher and Sabrina Hassan of PUBPAT, Chris Hansen and Aden Fine of the ACLU First Amendment Working Group, and Park and Lenora Lapidus of the ACLU Women's Rights Project. Support for PUBPAT's work in challenging patents on human genes comes from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.
More information about the case, including a video of why we're fighting to liberate the breast cancer genes, can be found online at www.pubpat.org/brca.
Daniel B. Ravicher, (212) 796-0570; email@example.com