Today, the New York Times reports that the US federal government, through the Department of Justice, has decided to reverse the policy practice with regard to patenting of genes and genetic mutations. I blogged about this issue earlier this year, pointing to all the excellent reasons for revising US policy on genetic patents – not least the con artist like businesses that have been allowed to flourish in the genetic testing area thanks to the odd idea of exempting genes from the general principle that constituents of the natural world cannot be patented, only processes that manipulate such constituents. Interested readers can download the full so-called friend-of-the-court brief for closer inspection.
The article makes clear that most serious business in the area of genomics and gene technology will not be significantly disturbed by the change of policy, since these companies have actually developed unique processes to patent. Likewise, synthetic or otherwise modified DNA that is different from DNA occurring in nature will be possible to patent. Especially the latter means that some of the ethical problems connected to this issue will remain. However, hopefully, the new policy will make it more difficult for scam companies such as Myriad Genetics to run a profitable business, thereby saving many people from being deceived and helping medical research to help people with genetic diseases more effectively. See my earlier post on this issue for more details on that.