Gene Patents & Access to Health: Speaking at but not to each other

Dr Aisling M. McMahon, Lecturer Newcastle Law School, and our Caroline Miles visiting Scholar in March this year

Recent international developments in gene patenting raise questions again about how bioethical concerns surrounding the grant of patents on health-related technologies are addressed or engaged with by patent law. In 2013 and 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States[1] and the Australian High Court[2], respectively, delivered judgments rejecting the patentability of isolated genes. Both disputes involved Myriad’s patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Subsequently, in March 2016 a Canadian case involving the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario’s (CHEO) challenge to patents on genes related to Long QT Syndrome (LQTS) (a condition that can potentially cause irregular and chaotic heartbeats[3]) was settled. The settlement provided a licence to CHEO to test for the syndrome and this has appeared to quell public concerns.[4]

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Gene Patents & Access to Health: Speaking at but not to each other