Colbert on Gene Patents

Recently, a judge in Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled that Myriad’s patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes were invalid, being a “products of the law nature” and could be patented no more than, say, mount Everest. These two genes are associated with breast and ovarian cancer, and are used in testing for susceptibility to these types of cancer — and for the patent’s duration, using Myriad’s labs. The ruling, if it holds up in appeals, will change the way pharmaceutical business is done: there are over 4,300 gene patents today. BRCA2 tests cost $3,000 in the US, where Myriad has exclusivity. In some provinces of Canada, where Myriad’s exclusivity  is not honored, BRCA tests cost considerably less. As an aside, one of the successes that the plaintiffs attribute to the verdict is the contribution to women’s health. True, but not exclusively so: there is growing evidence that BRCA1/2 mutations are associated with pancreatic cancer and testicular cancer.

Stephen Colbert has something to say about it; but in this case, although he is his usual facetiously hilarious self, he seemed to confuse the ACLU, who was one of the plaintiffs. Actually, he confused me too. His arguments for the patent invalidation seem a tad self-defeating, rather unusual for Colbert. See for yourself.

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One Response to “Colbert on Gene Patents”

  1. Ben says:

    I think the joke just flopped, but the Colbert-esque point seemed to highlight that research hinges on profit, not altruism.