Like many people affected by the BRCA mutation, I have been waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on patents held by Myriad Genetics on the so-called “breast cancer genes.” Now, the wait is over: On Thursday, the court ruled unanimously against Myriad’s patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2, saying that genes — even those isolated in a laboratory — are “products of nature,” not inventions.
It is hard to explain the emotions I feel about this decision. Mostly, I feel joy and relief. This decision will widen access to BRCA testing. Plaintiffs and litigators have turned the spotlight on economic injustices that have left many people without recourse to testing for the BRCA mutation, partly due to the profit margins that led Myriad, a biotechnology company based in Utah, to keep the costs of BRCA analysis unfairly high. Almost as soon as the court announced its decision, companies began to come forward with more affordable options for testing, reminding us how important competition is to keep costs down.