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Cancer patients sue to deny patent to company claiming ownership of gene

Myriad Genetics was allowed to patent two genes that are closely associated with a risk of breast or ovarian cancer, and on the testing that measures that risk.  This week, Genae Girard and other cancer patients sued to challenge Myriad's patenting of human genes.  Professional organizations of pathologists and individual physicians joined in the suit.

The lawsuit was organized by the ACLU and filed in a New York federal court.  It alleges that rather than promoting medical innovation and research, patents of this nature restrict the practice of medicine and new research.  One of the plaintiffs, Wendy K. Chung, director of clinical genetics at Columbia University, argues that research will be more productive if market forces control laboratory work related to the genes.  This type of patent has "long been a sore point for many scientists" according to the New York Times, which quoted Jan Nowak, president of the Association for Molecular Pathology, as suggesting that "You can't patent my DNA, any more than you can patent my right arm, or patent my blood."

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