No to patents on human genes

June 17, 2013, 5:49 PM GMT+0

The American public overwhelmingly supports the Supreme Court's decision to disallow patents on naturally occuring human genes.

On Thursday the Supreme Court ruled against biotech company Myriad Genetics, who had attempted to patent naturally occurring human genes as part of a breast cancer testing process developed by the company. While the court said that naturally occurring human genes could not be patented, they did partly rule in favor of the company by saying that synthetic DNA with particular therapeutic purposes can be patented. Representatives of the biotech industry, along with many medical figures, have said that prohibiting patents of genes could inhibit development of new genetic therapies that could have a major impact on the fight against cancer and other diseases.

The latest YouGov research shows that Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea of patenting naturally occurring genes and are even rather skeptical of patenting particular uses of genes. Only 7% support patents of human genes and a further 21% reject gene patents but support patents for treatments using genes. 43% reject all patents of genes or particular treatments using genes.

The results indicate that there is a slight age difference. 12% of people aged 18-29 support patents of human genes, compared to only 5% of people aged over 45. Nevertheless, 44% of young people still reject all gene patents outright.

At the center of the legal fight was a test to discover two genes - BRCA1 and BRCA2 - which correlate strongly with increased risk of breast cancer and are similar to the testing that prompted Angelina Jolie to opt for a double masectomy in order to cut her risk of developing breast cancer.

Complete results are available here.

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