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Law-Medicine Interfacing: Patenting of Human Genes and Mutations

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Mutations, Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), deletions and genetic rearrangements in specific genes in the human genome account for not only our physical characteristics and behavior, but can lead to many in-born and acquired diseases. Such changes in the genome can also predispose people to cancers, as well as significantly affect the metabolism and efficacy of many drugs, resulting in some cases in acute toxicity to the drug. The testing of the presence of such genetic mutations and rearrangements is of great practical and commercial value, leading many of these genes and their mutations/deletions and genetic rearrangements to be patented. A recent decision by a judge in the Federal District Court in the Southern District of New York, has created major uncertainties, based on the revocation of BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene patents, in the eligibility of all human and presumably other gene patents. This article argues that while patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes could be challenged based on a lack of utility, the patenting of the mutations and genetic rearrangements is of great importance to further development and commercialization of genetic tests that can save human lives and prevent suffering, and should be allowed.

Keywords: BRCA1/BRCA2 genes; Breast cancer; Cytotoxic factors; HUMAN GENES, MUTATIONS; MEDICAL ISSUE; cupredoxins; drug efficacy; gene patents; genetic predisposition; genetic testing; human genome; patent validity; perceived broad claims; pharmacogenetics; prostate cancers; protein drugs

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2011

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  • Recent Patents on DNA and Gene Sequences publishes review articles by experts on recent patents on DNA and gene sequences. A selection of important and recent patents in the field is also included in the journal. The journal is essential reading for all researchers involved in applied molecular biology.

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