Support on the groundbreaking challenge to human gene patents

Press Statement
Seven books are lined up by their spines. A judge's gavel rests in the front.

Public interest, social justice, and women’s health advocates filed a "friend of the court" brief [PDF] in support of a groundbreaking lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Patent Foundation challenging the constitutionality of human gene patents.

"Patents on genes and gene variations increase health disparities by denying women information about their own bodies," said Susan Berke Fogel, JD, of the Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research. "Furthermore, genes are part of the common heritage of humanity – they carry information about our biological histories and link us to each other and to future generations. No one should own that which belongs to all of us."

Last week, the Center for Genetics and Society, the Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, Generations Ahead, and the National Women’s Health Network filed an amicus brief in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

"A century of patent law prohibits patents on products and laws of nature," added Marcy Darnovsky, PhD, of the Center for Genetics and Society. "Genes are like new minerals found in the earth, plants growing in the wild, or the laws of gravity and relativity: They are phenomena of nature and cannot be patented."

Several major organizations, including the American Medical Association, the March of Dimes, and the American Society for Human Genetics, have also filed supporting briefs.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation filed the lawsuit in May on behalf of Breast Cancer Action, Our Bodies Ourselves, individual women and breast cancer patients, genetic counselors, four scientific organizations representing more than 150,000 researchers and laboratory professionals, and individual researchers. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of gene patents, in general, and those granted to Myriad Genetics, specifically. These patents give the company exclusive control of two genes which are associated with increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

For more information:

The Center for Genetics and Society is a non-profit public affairs and policy advocacy organization working to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of human genetic and reproductive biotechnologies.

The Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research is a coalition of reproductive rights and justice advocates, bioethicists, academics, and community leaders working together to promote accountability, safety and social justice in bio-medical research from a women’s rights perspective. 

Susan Berke Fogel

Marcy Darnovsky
510-625-0819, ext 305