As expected, lawyers representing Yvonne D’Arcy in her fight to have Myriad Genetics’ BRCA ‘cancer gene’ patent claims declared invalid have filed an application with the High Court of Australia for special leave to appeal the decision of a Full Bench of the Federal Court upholding the claims. At some time in the coming months, therefore, the High Court will decide whether or not it will review the Federal Court’s decision. My prediction remains that it will not, although the policy implications are certainly significant enough that Australia’s top court may feel that there is value in having its say.
In the meantime, unfortunately, the patent itself, the technical and legal issues, and the decision of the Full Federal Court remain poorly-understood by most people.
Helpfully, Fairfax Media has published an ‘explainer’, to get people up-to-speed on some of the issues in the case, and the differences dividing the two sides of the debate over gene patents.
However, missing from the Fairfax article are questions and answers about the underlying legal issues, which is (unsurprisingly) where many of the misunderstandings and misconceptions arise.
Do private corporations own your genes? What rights does Myriad’s patent actually give it? What is the effect on the cost of healthcare? What is the impact on research? Will a positive outcome for Myriad lead to more companies seeking gene patents? And is all this just a sign that, as a society, we have lost our moral compass?
Read on for my answers to these questions, and more.
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