Company loses cancer gene patent case

Issue 
Yvonne D'Arcy whose campaign stopped a company from trying to patent a cancer gene.

A Queensland woman has won a High Court challenge against corporations owning human genes.

Yvonne D'Arcy took her fight against US-based biotech company Myriad Genetics to Australia's highest court. The company has a patent over the BRCA1 gene that is linked to an increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

A Queensland woman has won a High Court challenge against corporations owning human genes.

Yvonne D'Arcy took her fight against US-based biotech company Myriad Genetics to Australia's highest court. The company has a patent over the BRCA1 gene that is linked to an increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

Darcy's lawyers had argued that genetic material is a product of nature and is therefore not patent-able. Allowing corporations to own patents over human genes stifled cancer research, she said, and would allow them to charge exorbitant rates for patients who wish to be tested for the BRCA1 mutation.

In a unanimous decision on October 7, the High Court found that coding for a BRCA1 protein was not a “patentable invention”.

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