The Rise and Fall of Patented Genes – The patent office has really done it this time.

Did you see the 60 minutes piece on patented genes (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6362525n&tag=contentMain;cbsCarousel). This was a real eye opener. A number of years ago, the patent office allowed bio tech companies to patent the genes in your body if they uncovered possible links to functional diseases. One of the most used/abused was the BRAC1/BRAC2 genes which are linked to breast/ovarian cancers. In the back of the minds of most women in our society is the fear of a cancer being discovered. These genes, if mutated, increase the likelihood causing women to prophalactically remove their breasts and their ovaries. Having these mutations does not mean you will get cancer, but it does say the likelihood is increased. This disturbing trend was just curtailed by a lawsuit challenging the decision to patent genes which has not only made the cost of doing the test ridiculous ($3200), but if you wanted to get a second opinion, you couldn’t because only one company could do it, namely, the company who owns the patent. I personally do not believe we understand the true underlying cause of cancer so rash decisions made under the fear of possibly or possibly not getting sick and dying does not empower us to make great decisions. The patenting of something occurring in nature is a perversion of the patent process and should become a thing of the past. I believe it hampers research and unnecessarily raises the cost for gene mapping which may have an increase value as we understand it better and come up with better solutions on how to improve humanity with the new information we now have at our finger tips.

Check out the 60 minutes report at the above link. While I believe some people do believe in competition, this is clearly people using the patent office to monopolize genes their research has discovered. True, a company who paid for the research deserves to be compensated for the risk/reward but how can one patent something that occurs in nature that we just happened to discover as we become more knowledgeable about genetics? I understand the company that patented the BRAC1 and 2 genes has appealed this decision. I hope they lose because they have already been paid handsomely for this patent and because genes should simply not be patentable. Cures for genetic ailments on the other hand should be because the cure is not naturally occurring in nature and this is a process someone or some entity created to get a curative result. In my opinion, they should be able to profit there and we would not have patents standing in the way of more effective cures and research.

One more thing is that we need to find the underlying cause for cancers and understand what cancer is, vs what we do now which is scaring, scarring and testing and scaring people to death of death from an entity we still really do not understand and using chemo which is a crap shoot treatment which helps some, and ignoring other inventive ways that are not as profitable to administer or seem heretical at the time but get to the heart of the problem.

What do you think? I welcome your comments.