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The Cash For Cancer Testing Controversy

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n2doc Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 05:49 AM
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The Cash For Cancer Testing Controversy
A recent result in the courts could create some cancer-catching problems. The European Patent Office has ruled to let the University of Utah keep patents on a key cancer gene, BRCA1, and the mutations thereof. This means that the University can charge royalties on any tests and BRCA1, and since it's been linked to thousands of cases a breast cancer a year that's kind of a captive market. The fact that many doctors have stated they'll refuse to pay a cent makes it all the more interesting.

Genetic patenting is a thorny issue, and one that will only become more important in the modern world. On the one hand it's understandable that companies will want monetary reward for their hard work - that's kind of what companies are for. BRCA1 mutations were identified by American company Myriad Genetics, who later gave the patents to the University of Utah. If there is no incentive to decode the genome then large commercial organizations simply won't do it: given the choice between curing AIDS for free or selling leeches, they'll work out a way to stick price tags on the slimy slugs every time.

On the other hand it's arguable whether companies should be allowed to patent genes at all. Genes are, after all, the very definition of "naturally occurring". Since a patent gives the holder the right to deny others the use of the items covered, some argue that patenting genes is like patenting specific mountain ranges or certain types or rock. That the techniques used to identify the genes are inventive is not in question; that the genes themselves have not been invented is equally clear.

Enough legal documents to wallpaper the Taj Mahal have been thrown back and forth over such disputes. The key is "Actions speak louder than words, no matter how legally those words are rendered", and in this case the actions are "We want to prevent doctors from saving people from cancer unless they pay us a thousand dollars a pop first." You see how quickly the issue simplifies into good guys and almost comically bad guys?

more at link:
http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2008/12/cash-for-c...

I personally think "patenting" genes is abhorrent.
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