Gene patent in the public interest: law lecturer
The Federal Court in Sydney's ruling today that a private company could continue to hold a patent over the so-called breast cancer gene BRCA1 is in the public interest, according to barrister and QUT senior lecturer Dr Ben McEniery.
"It gives medical researchers a financial incentive to produce new methods of treatment and diagnosis that we all benefit from and clarifies what was an uncertain area of law," Dr McEniery said.
"Without patents like this, medical treatment could not be as advanced and sophisticated as it is today."
Dr McEniery said Justice John Nicholas had ruled that isolated DNA and RNA were not products of nature and could, therefore, be patented.
"However, his Honour confirmed that naturally occurring genes as they exist inside cells in the body could not be patented, but that isolated genes could be."
He said the Federal Court's decision was important because it recognised patents over medical treatment methods.
The US-based Myriad Genetics and Melbourne-based Genetic Technologies hold a patent on the BRCA1 breast and ovarian cancer gene which allows them to control who tests for mutations in the gene and how much those tests cost.
"Genetic Technologies, although it holds an exclusive licence of the patent in Australia, had not been enforcing its rights here to prevent others testing for mutations to the gene," he said.
Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT media 07 3138 2999, firstname.lastname@example.org