Friday, August 2, 2013

Are Your Genes Still Free?

It gets murkier and murkier. The day after the Supreme Court ruled that natural human genes could not be patented, Gene by Gene [and perhaps Ambry Genetics] started offering BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing for $999. Myriad Genomics had been offering it for  about $4,000. Great news for womankind. But now Myriad has sued.

“If [Ambry and Gene by Gene] are proved wrong, and I think they will be, it will be at the expense of women who want to be tested,” Gold said. “It’s legal, but not ethical.” For Professor Gold's comment in context read the full story in Wednesday's The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Dr. D agrees with Ambry Genetics' claim that our genes should be free to express their vital information:

Although that expression cannot be free (as in no cost); it should not be restricted from most women because of artificially high pricing. 

I at least partly agree with Professor Gold. I am not a patent lawyer. I am also not a geneticist. Therefore, I do not claim to understand all the legal and biological intricacies of this current law suit. I don't have an opinion as to whether of not patent law gives Myriad a legal leg to stand on. However, I strongly believe that Myriad's position is not ethical. Not many women can draw on the financial resources Angelina Jolie could draw on when she had to make a potentially life or death decision. However, they still need access to the most relevant information their body can give them before they make that decision.

Disclosure: I am an unpaid volunteer manager for two surname DNA projects hosted at Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). FTDNA is a subsidiary of Gene by Gene. FTDNA is one of four genetic genealogy labs through which I have tested my own DNA. I have no financial interest in any of these companies.

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