The Future of Biotech

In the wake of a ruling by a United States district judge in Manhattan that parts of patents held by Myriad Genetics, related to two breast cancer genes — known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 — are invalid, the question is where do biotech firms go from here?

Some biotechnology investors and executives say that lack of patent protection for DNA could diminish investment and remove incentives to develop tests. That could slow the move toward so-called personalized medicine, in which genetic tests are used to determine which drugs are best for which patients.

James P. Evans, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina, said that would not necessarily be the case. There is thriving competition in areas like testing for mutations that cause cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease, even though no company has exclusivity.

“It’s quite demonstrable that in the diagnostic area, one does not need gene patents in order to see robust development of these tests,” he said.

I’ve always wondered how Biotech companies could patent specific human genes, other than the big money they make off of them; but this is something that exists in nature?  

Then again, I don’t understand patent law.

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