Masur Discusses Patentability of Genes in New York Times

Permit Patents Only for Modified DNA
Jonathan Masur
New York Times
June 6, 2013

When it comes to patents, too much of a good thing can be disastrous.

Patents generate increased spending on research and development: if a firm can obtain patents, it will be able to earn greater profits and will have incentives to invest resources in new innovation. But these increased profits are costs to consumers, who often must pay more for patented products and treatments.

Patents can also be used to block further research. Myriad owns two types of patents on genes that can cause breast cancer. The first are broad patents on isolated DNA sequences, which cover the gene in something very close to its natural form. The second are narrower cDNA patents, which are manufactured in the laboratory and exclude the parts of the gene that do not code for proteins.

The costs of Myriad’s gene patents are clear.