March 14, 2016 Articles

International Conflicts over Patenting Human DNA

The High Court of Australia recently emphasized the public policy issues concerning gene patents

By Alyson L. Wooten

In D'Arcy v Myriad Genetics Inc. [2015] HCA 35, the High Court of Australia (High Court) found an isolated nucleic acid coding for specified mutations or polymorphisms of the BRCA1 gene is not patent-eligible subject matter. The case in Australia, widely viewed as the counterpart to the U.S. case Ass'n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 133 S. Ct. 2107 (2013), in which the U.S. Supreme Court also found that isolated nucleic acids are not patentable, is the subject of heated policy debate. The D'Arcy majority's heavy emphasis on public policy arguments highlights the tension between protecting and rewarding advances in biotechnology, without constraining development of new diagnostic techniques.

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