Myriad Genetics is a biotech company that has a patent on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which exist in all humans. I have no problem with that. Myriad Genetics has done what they reasonably had to in order to compete with other companies. Companies should be able to hold patents on genes because it will fuel the growth of scientific research.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two genes that have been patented by Myriad Genetics. These genes are not rare, they are found in everyone. One of the outstanding characteristics of these genes is their ability to naturally fix DNA. Myriad Genetics isolated the gene from the DNA sequence. The company has created a test that can reveal a possible mutation in those genes, which correlates with a higher breast and ovarian cancer probability in a person and their family. Myriad Genetics has a patent on both the BRCA genes and the procedure to test whether or not a patient has a BRCA gene mutation. Since Myriad has control over these things, no other company or person can research the gene further or make another test.
One of the big issues with Myriad Genetics is the amount of money they charge for the screening to be done. The test costs approximately three thousand dollars. Some on the side of the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, may assume that Myriad Genetics makes the test at such a high price because they want to take advantage of people, accumulating as much money as they can for profit. These claims rest upon the questionable assumption that all the profit is only for company gain, to increase the welfare of certain individuals on the top of the company.
Much of the money that Myriad Genetics earns gets reinvested into the company, and the results show. Myriad Genetics has been able to isolate and research multiple genes in addition to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and create tests to determine more about mutations. Myriad Genetics has expanded their treatment to many more cancers, including colon, lung, pancreatic, and prostate. The company has advanced their research over the years to be able to take care of many more patients. This shows one way the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene patents have helped scientific discovery.
Rebecca Skloot writes about this issue on page 324 of her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. “Myriad has been accused of creating a monopoly, since no one else can offer the test, and researchers can’t develop cheaper tests or new therapies without getting permission from Myriad and paying steep licensing fees.” Here, Skloot is accusing Myriad Genetics of having absolute power over the trade and supply of the genes. On the one hand, I agree with Skloot that...