A triumph for cancer patients across the globe
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last couple of months, you've probably seen the news stories and court cases involving huge pharmaceutical corporations battling against much smaller entities over the right to owning intellectual property on medical products and processes.One very important story that has caught the eyes and ears of many around the world involved a cancer patient from Queensland, Australia, who's been battling against pharmaceutical companies being able to hold patents on human genes. We first covered this story back in June when Yvonne D'Arcy was at the beginning her case, in which she argued that genetic material is a product of nature, not man made, so how could it possibly be patented if no one individual solely brought about its existence.
US research firm Myraid Genetics was awarded a patent for the gene BRCA1. They licensed it to an Australian company, which meant the companies held a monopoly over any tests that could detect the gene. Research over the years confirmed the gene was directly linked to an increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
Today, the Australian high court overthrew the previous decision which had awarded the patent, ruling that the discovery was indeed unpatentable, as it did not hold any properties of what an 'invention' is, or should be.
The court explained, that while the detection of the gene might have come about in a way that involved the "product of human action, it was the existence of the information stored in the relevant sequences that was an essential element of the invention as claimed."
D'Arcy, a twice-surviving cancer patient is said to be thrilled with the ruling as she compared the challenge to "David and Goliath". Her case was initially dismissed by Australia's Federal Court, which ruled in favor of the companies holding the patent.
In a statement after the hearing D'Arcy explained, "Myraid did not 'create, make or alter' the generic code. This is what we have argued since the outset." She continued, "for all the people who do have the genetic footprint of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, any cancer basically, it's a win for them because they are forewarned... I'm only a little person - but it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."