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Human Gene Patents Struck Down: Reactions from the Plaintiffs

Sandra Park,
Senior Staff Attorney,
ACLU Women's Rights Project
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June 13, 2013

For the last four years, I’ve had the honor of representing 20 amazing organizations and individuals in our challenge to human gene patents. They include: leading organizations of pathologists and geneticists; scientists, physicians, and genetic counselors who work every day to improve our understanding of the connection between genes, disease, and treatment and the care they provide to patients; breast cancer and women’s health groups, who spoke out against the effects of these patents on patients; and women who have family histories of breast and ovarian cancer, or who have already been diagnosed with cancer, and faced obstacles to their medical care because of these patents.

They chose to challenge human gene patents at a time when gene patents were accepted as the status quo. And after a long fight, everyone was thrilled by the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday concluding that human genes cannot be patented. Here are some of their reactions:

Runi Limary, breast cancer survivor:

I’m speechless! This is a monumental day for me and for everyone that has a known or suspected inherited risk of breast and ovarian cancer. This opens the door for researchers and access to testing which can potentially save lives. My test result showed that I have a variant of uncertain significance, so I do not know if I am BRCA positive or not. Everyone deserves the right to truly know if they have the BRCA mutation. The Supreme Court’s decision today is a giant step in the right direction.

Roger D. Klein, MD, JD, Chair, Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) Professional Relations Committee:

AMP is very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision in the case. The Court’s decision that human genes are not patentable is a great step forward in for the field of molecular pathology, for genomic science, and most important for our patients. We look forward to exciting future advancements in diagnostic testing and therapeutics that will accrue to the benefit of our patients and our field.

Ellen Matloff, MS, Director of Cancer Genetic Counseling:

Today will go down in the history books as one of the most important days in the evolution of genetic testing and personalized medicine. Because of the SCOTUS ruling today, genetic testing for many diseases will be a reality for our children, and our children’s children. Because of this ruling, the promise of better treatments for our patients is truly possible.

Harry Ostrer, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Pathology and Genetics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yestiva University and Montefiore:

This decision returns the ownership of isolated DNA and its genes to Nature, where it belongs. It will foster a new competitive era in genomics research that will keep the United States at the forefront. It will offer testing options and second opinions for those who currently have none.

Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Action:

We are celebrating a truly tremendous victory for women with a known or suspected inherited risk of breast cancer—and for all people everywhere. This landmark decision means that women will now have access to new BRCA gene tests from other labs, at lower cost. For the first time, women will be able to get second opinions when making life-altering medical decisions based on their risk of cancer. A major barrier to breast cancer research, improved testing, new diagnostic tools and targeted therapies related to the BRCA genes was struck down today.

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