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468 FBF: Supreme Court Victory Against Gene Patenting with Genae Girard

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Today’s Flash Back Friday comes from Episode 169, originally published in September 2013.

Genae Girard and her lawsuit against Myriad Genetics may just have altered the course of humanity. Genae was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the U.S. Patent Office and Myriad Genetics, who had been allowed to patent human genes that were associated with breast and ovarian cancer, then monopolize the testing procedure.

Genae was in her early 30’s and diagnosed with having a gene (BRCA) that leads to cancer. When she asked for a 2nd opinion, she was told that not only was Myriad the only company that could do the test, but even they would not retest her.

Incredibly, this was allowed to go on with the blessing of the U.S. Government. In fact many other companies had patents pending for all different kinds of human genes that have been voided due to Genae’s lawsuit.

The Unanimous Supreme Court decision in June of 2013 said, among other things, that it is unconstitutional to patent anything that exists in nature. The justices also said that what Myriad had done by creating this monopoly hurt every woman who had the same diagnosis as Genae. They had been able to call all the shots in this field, including which insurance they would accept and had banked all the data relating to their diagnoses.

The ruling broke the monopoly of Myriad Genetics over this incredibly important test. They had been charging an astronomical $3,500 just for the test, but with competition now allowed again, the price should drop to $150. Possibly more importantly, other companies will not be able to patent parts of the human body. How this will effect a mega multinational corporation like Monsanto, who has patented their seeds, has yet to be seen. But needless to say, Genae and her co-plaintiffs have changed the world.



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