The Supreme Court’s decision that big biotech companies can’t patent your DNA could make it a lot cheaper to get life-saving genetic tests like the one that spurred Angelina Jolie to get a double mastectomy.
The high court’s decision struck a blow to a Utah-based company called Myriad Genetics, which held the patent for the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Since Myriad had the patent on these genes, it essentially had a monopoly on testing for them.
Those tests can be $3,000 to $4,000 — a drop in the bucket for Jolie but pretty pricey for the average woman. Now that the Supreme Court invalidated Myriad’s patents, Myriad’s competitors will be able to step in and offer cheaper tests.
“I know the costs of these tests will be considerably lower without patent protection, allowing more women at risk to be tested,” Dr. Ossama Tawfik, a breast cancer pathology expert, told NBC News.
There’s a down side to the Supreme Court’s decison, though. Since biotech companies can’t patent human DNA anymore, they may be loath to invest a ton of money into isolating genes from the body and figuring out how to test for them.
The Supreme Court’s decision Thursday arguably took away one incentive to innovate.
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