By Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director
Congress is moving quickly with a plan to let companies patent human genes—overturning our historic Supreme Court win against Myriad Genetics!
The notion that a company can own human genes is fundamentally absurd. And Congress’s proposed giveaway to corporations and biotech threatens our health and our lives. Take action now!
Ten years, ago Breast Cancer Action joined a lawsuit led by the ACLU that challenged Myriad Genetics’ patent on the human BRCA genes—commonly referred to as the “breast cancer genes”—because the misguided corporate patent was blocking access to life-saving information and blocking progress on breast cancer research.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in our favor that naturally occurring genes are not patentable. Yet, if a bipartisan group of industry-friendly Senators and Representatives have their way, all that would soon change!
A Senate subcommittee will be holding three hearings in the next week, starting TODAY, on a bill that would invalidate the Supreme Court decision on AMP v. Myriad, as well as two other related cases.
The stakes are high. And no one knows this more than the families who have inherited an extremely high risk of breast and ovarian cancer from harmful BRCA mutations.
For nearly twenty years, Myriad Genetics held a monopoly patent on the human BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 genes, which prevented any other company from offering BRCA testing. This monopoly allowed Myriad to increase the cost of their BRCA test, until it cost several thousand dollars, despite the fact that technological advances should have helped bring the cost down. Before the Supreme Court overturned Myriad’s patent on the BRCA genes, revenue from the test generated close to half a billion dollars a year!
Not only was Myriad’s expensive test out of reach for some people, it also didn’t always provide useful information for those who learned they had a mutation. Some people, especially people of color, got ambiguous results explaining that a mutation had been found, but Myriad couldn’t say if the mutation was harmful or not. And because Myriad refused to allow other companies to provide the test, there was no way to get a second opinion while considering life-changing surgeries.
When the Supreme Court ruled on June 13, 2013 that Myriad could not patent naturally occurring DNA, the real-world impact was immediate and powerful. The day of the ruling, several companies immediately announced they would offer BRCA testing for a fraction of the cost of Myriad’s test, including one test under $1,000.
The bill’s authors already invited Myriad Genetics to participate in roundtable discussions hosted by Sen. Chris Coons and Sen. Thom Tillis as they were drafting their legislation. Now it’s time to make our voices heard!
Contact your Senators and Representative now!