Blog of Rights

Selene
Kaye

Why Gene Patents Are Unlawful

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 11:46am

(Originally posted on ACSBlog.)

Last week the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government's practice of granting patents on human genes - specifically, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with breast and ovarian cancer. In the last 20 or so years the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has issued patents on thousands of human genes — the segments of DNA that we all have in our cells — giving private corporations, individuals, and universities the exclusive rights to those genetic sequences and their usage.

The patents on the BRCA genes are particularly broad and offensive. The PTO has granted Myriad Genetics, a private biotechnology company based in Utah, patents on both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic sequences, on any mutations along those genes, on any methods for locating mutations on the genes, without further specification on the type of methods, and on correlations between genetic mutations and susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer.

The lawsuit charges, as critics of gene patents have argued for years, that gene patents stifle biomedical research and interfere with patients' access to genetic testing. The lawsuit argues that the patents on the BRCA genes are unconstitutional and invalid given the long-standing legal precedent that "products of nature" and "laws of nature" are not patentable. The suit also makes the novel argument that the practice of patenting genes, their correlations with disease, and the thought of comparing two genes violates the First Amendment and interferes with scientific freedom.

“An Environment Which Fosters the Health, Self-Respect and Dignity of the Child”

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 11:50am

Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most comprehensive treaty on children’s rights. The convention has been ratified by nearly every country in the world, except for the United States. The…

Who Owns Your Genes?

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 7:45pm

Today the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government’s practice of granting patents on human genes – specifically, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with breast and ovarian cancer.…

Strip-Searching and Solitary Confinement of Girls at Texas "State School"

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 1:53pm
Entrance to "Freedom Dorm" at Brownwood State School

It could not be more ironic that one of the buildings that contains the holding cells of the Brownwood State School – a high-security youth prison in central Texas — is called “Freedom…

Who Owns Your Genes? You Do.

Who Owns Your Genes? You Do.

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 5:18pm

On Monday, federal district court Judge Robert Sweet made history by issuing the first ruling ever that human genes can’t be patented.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has been issuing patents on human genes for over 20 years,…

Revaluing "Women's Work:" Ending the Exploitation and Abuse of Domestic Workers

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 2:02pm

A reminder to those of you in the New York area to join us tomorrow at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women for a film screening and discussion about the human rights of domestic workers.

For decades, nannies, caregivers, and housekeepers…

Support for International Women’s Rights Treaty from Ambassador to the U.N.

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 5:57pm

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, issued a terrific statement today on the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

CEDAW is the international…

First Hearing Held in the Breast Cancer Gene Patents Challenge

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 1:28pm

Fittingly, on the eve of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, plaintiffs had their first hearing in federal court yesterday in their challenge to the breast cancer gene patents. The government's granting of exclusive rights to the BRCA1 and 2 human genes…

Some Priorities for Obama’s New Violence Against Women Advisor

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 6:29pm

Last Friday Vice President Biden announced the appointment of Lynn Rosenthal as the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, the first time such a position has existed. We welcome the high-level attention this will bring to violence against women,…

Engaging with the Obama Administration to Advance the Human Rights of Women

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 2:11pm

President Obama hit the ground running on women's rights when, in his second week in office, he made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first major bill he signed into law.

This week, human rights advocates will gather at the United Nations…

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