The Supreme Court has ruled that companies can no longer patent human genes. The decision will have huge medical implications, allowing companies to compete to develop genetics-based tests and treatments for a whole host of diseases.
The court unanimously struck down patents held by Myriad Genetics on two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which predict breast and ovarian cancer. Angelina Jolie recently had a double mastectomy after Myriad's test predicted an 87% chance she'd develop breast cancer.
The decision allowed other companies to develop genetic tests that predict whether women will develop the cancers. Until now, Myriad's patent on the genes allowed them to set the price at $3,000 for their test.
Their patent was challenged in the Supreme Court by the Association for Molecular Pathology and other scientists, who argued that patenting a gene shuts down scientific research and makes medical treatment inaccessible.
Myriad argued that without gene patents, companies would lack financial incentives to develop new tests and treatments.
The ruling will prevent companies from patenting genes in future. Judges made the distinction that companies can patent cDNA - DNA that has been synthesized - but not naturally-occurring DNA.