MEDIA RELEASE Myriad Genetics’ court ruling is a defeat for cancer researchers

15 FEBRUARY 2013
Myriad Genetics’ court ruling is a defeat for cancer researchers
The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) is very disappointed by the Federal
Court’s decision today refusing to revoke a patent over a genetic mutation for breast cancer,
BRCA1, held by the molecular diagnostic company, Myriad Genetics.
The controversial ruling, which sets a new precedent in the Australian legal system for gene
patenting, confirms the ability to hold patents on naturally occurring human DNA that has
been isolated from the cells of the human body.
Professor Yee Khong, President of The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, says
that gene mutations are a natural consequence and should lie beyond the scope of
“Gene patents potentially compromise quality in healthcare, increase costs and restrict
doctors’ abilities to make diagnoses. Although patents are an essential component of
contemporary medical care, it is critical that a distinction is made between a discovery and
an invention,” says Professor Khong.
The RCPA is disappointed with the Federal Court’s ruling, based on the grounds that, in its
view, the BRCA1 mutation is a naturally occurring discovery and not an invention, and
therefore should not be patentable under any circumstances. Advocates of gene patenting
argue that patenting is essential in developing therapies based on genetic understanding of
a disease. The RCPA disagrees with this view.
“Gene patenting has the potential to directly affect the healthcare and medical research
industry, and may have an adverse impact on medical testing. Therefore, the battle is not
over. We need a system that supports creativity and investment in research and healthcare,
while ensuring that the ability to make a diagnosis is not restrained,” says Professor Khong.
The RCPA hopes that this decision will be the subject of an appeal to the full bench of the
Federal Court.
About the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia:
The RCPA is the leading organisation representing pathologists in Australasia. Its mission is
to train and support pathologists and to improve the use of pathology testing to achieve
better healthcare.
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Linsey Brown
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