Those of us who have been waiting with bated breath for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on gene patents in the case of Myriad can now exhale. The Court issued its opinion this morning, in which, as we predicted, they held that cDNA is patentable subject matter, but “isolated DNA” derived from genomic DNA is not patentable.
The Court unanimously agreed that a naturally occurring sequence of DNA, even if isolated, is still a product of nature and therefore is not patentable. Myriad, they said, did not create or alter any of the genetic information for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, but rather discovered these genes are implicated in breast cancer if mutated. According to the Supreme Court, a “groundbreaking, innovative, or even brilliant discovery does not by itself satisfy the section 101 inquiry” of patentable subject matter. Put another way, discovery is not the same as invention, and patent protection is not appropriate for all things. On the other hand, cDNA was clearly considered to be different and patentable since it does not occur naturally but only synthetically.