by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted April 29, 2008 in DNA Testing, DNA and the Law
The European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG) has published recommendations on gene patents as applied to genetic testing in the European Journal of Human Genetics. The chair of the working group, Professor Gert Matthijs of the Catholic University of Leuven, said:
This new proposal aims to reconcile what until now have appeared to be conflicting interests patent owners, commercial companies, health authorities, policy makers, geneticists with the ultimate goal of ensuring that patients retain access to the latest technological advances.
Key points include:
Patents benefit society through innovation and promoting progress.
The definition of “invention” vs. “discovery” with the identification of genes, mutations, links between genetic defect and disease are deemed to be discoveries by some and thus would be unethical to patent.
Patenting novel technical tools for genetic testing is a good way to promote investment and allow for invention.
- Genetic tests that examine a panel of genes will be impacted negatively by gene patents.
- Genetic tests combined with protein or metabolite measurements will also have to consider multiple patents.
- Patent applications do not take into account clinical validity and utility.
- There are international differences in patent systems which affect the availability of genetic services worldwide.
- Gene patents are overly broad and include not just the sequence but also protein and antibodies, etc.
Access to genetic testing can be impeded every step of the way from the discovery of new genes and mutations all the way up to availability of genetic tests. Right now, most of us concentrate on who has the right to have a genetic test and how. Another consideration clearly has to be who will develop the genetic tests and what intellectual property rights they have over their work.
As Michael Crichton said in a New York Times op-ed against gene patents:
Gene patents are now used to halt research, prevent medical testing and keep vital information from you and your doctor. Gene patents slow the pace of medical advance on deadly diseases. And they raise costs exorbitantly: a test for breast cancer that could be done for $1,000 now costs $3,000.
Should we prohibit the patenting of genes? Take the poll in this previous Eye on DNA post.
Living on Earth Looks Back at Gene Patents...
DNA Poll: Patenting Genes...
National DNA Day 2007...
Yay or Nay for Genetic Testing?...
GeneTests – Information About Genetic Testing...
Knowledge about Genetic Risk is Power or is it Fear?...
DNA Video: Sequenom Prenatal Genetic Testing...
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