Skip to content

🔬 "All Your Genes Are Belong To Us"

Planet Money

Photo by Warren Umoh / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Category: Biz & Tech | 🔬 Biotech

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:18] “Companies are turning DNA […] into intellectual property. […] The United States government is letting companies claim that my genetic material, everyone’s genes are their intellectual property and then making money off of it. […] People are patenting genes.”

[2:33] “Myriad [Genetics] is a biotech company […] that had isolated and patented the genes responsible for most types of inherited breast and ovarian cancer. And once Myriad owned these genes, they effectively blocked anyone else from doing comprehensive testing or in some cases even doing research on these genes that cause a super deadly disease.”

[4:58] “The story of gene patenting kind of starts in the 1970s, when scientists figured out how to modify genes in a lab. Until 1980 living things mostly couldn’t be patented, but that year the Supreme Court said: “I guess these new modified genes are inventions.” And pretty soon after that, the patent office started granting patents not just on those modified genes, but even on genes that scientists had just managed to isolate and extract from the body. Which started this huge genetic gold rush.”

[14:22] “The notion that some private company could own a part of my body and that I can’t look at it without paying a royalty to some private company seems to me blindingly obviously a civil liberties issue.”

[20:20] “[Key challenge in court was] to define, […] the exact moment when something stops being raw material and starts being an invention - a patentable invention.”

[23:32] “The ruling was unanimous. The court said quote: “Myriad did not create anything. Separating a gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.” […] Human genes that had merely been isolated, those could no longer be patented and privately owned. And with that, thousands of gene patents that had been granted over three decades […] were invalidated and set free.”

Rating: 🍎🍎🍎

Full Episode: Apple | NPR One
🕰️ 25 min | 🗓️ 11/21/2020

#humangenes #genepatenting #myriad #civilliberties #biotech

Subscribe now