Last year, the Supreme Court made an important ruling in the Myriad Genetics case, effectively saying that genes aren't patentable
, even if you can separate them out from the rest of a strand of DNA. Myriad Genetics had isolated two key genes related to breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 and argued that only it could test for those genes, because of its patent. The Supreme Court soundly rejected that, noting that you cannot patent something in nature, and clearly Myriad did not "make" the genes. Unfortunately, as we'd noted just a few months earlier, a court in Australia had come to the opposite conclusion
, saying that Myriad Genetics had legitimate patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2. That case was appealed, and there was some hope that after the US's ruling, higher courts in Australia might see the light. Not yet apparently. An appeals court has agreed that genes are patentable Down Under
, which means that such important genetic tests there are likely to be much more expensive and limited.
You can read the full ruling here
if you'd like. The case can still be appealed to the Australian High Court, so perhaps it will take the same trajectory as in the US, where it needed the Supreme Court to finally point out the absolute insanity of patenting genes. Though, frankly, if Australia does keeps genes patentable, it might make for an interesting natural experiment to see how much innovation and research happens in both places -- one with, and one without, patents.