ACLU sues over cancer gene patents

May 13, 2009 at 12:26 PM
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NEW YORK, May 13 (UPI) -- Patenting pure genes linked to diseases is unconstitutional and slows down research progress, civil liberties advocates claim.

American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero says constitutional rights to knowledge about the human body and to make pertinent healthcare decisions are at stake when private companies are allowed to hold patents on genes found responsible for diseases, CNN reported Wednesday.

The ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation, an organization affiliated with Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for granting patents to Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation. The company and foundation were awarded patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, found to be responsible for many cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, CNN said.

The ACLU contends that because the patents give Myriad the exclusive right to perform diagnostic tests on the cancer genes, other researchers looking for cancer cures will be hindered.

"It is absolutely our intent that upon victory this will rend invalid patents on many other genes," Dan Ravicher of Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law told CNN.

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