On Nov. 30, 2012, the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari in the case of The Association for Molecular Pathology, et al v. Myriad Genetics Inc. In agreeing to hear the case, the court limited its review to the first of three questions the petitioner had requested, namely, “Are human genes patentable?” The answer, and how the decision is framed, could stir as much controversy as it quenches.
The case stems from Myriad’s patents on isolated DNA segments coding for BRCA1 and BRCA 2. Women who test positive using Myriad’s gene test—called BRACAnalysis—have an 82 percent higher risk of breast cancer and a 44 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer in their lifetimes. The test has proven to be valuable, and Myriad has used its patents to dominate the U.S. genetic testing market for these genes.