Statement by HudsonAlpha President Rick Myers

re: Recent ruling by Supreme Court on gene patenting

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 13, 2013 that human genes cannot be patented.  Our view is that this is the right decision and the ruling will benefit all people, including patients, physicians, researchers and commercial entities who develop valuable products based on human genes.

The notion that anyone could own something as fundamental as a human gene never sat well with most people.  A key aspect of the court’s decision is that genes are products of nature.  Like elements of the periodic table, naturally occurring substances cannot be patented. Instead, scientists and entrepreneurs will focus on innovative ways to isolate, engineer, and develop new products that have the potential to improve society and human health.  For example, new drugs based on expression and delivery of cDNA (synthetic derivatives of genes), and new methods for gene-based diagnostic tests, remain both patentable and a critical source of research and development for HudsonAlpha researchers, as well as for biotechnology companies on our campus and elsewhere.

Some have argued that investors and companies will not put the effort into developing new products if they cannot own genes that are used for these products.  We disagree.  While this argument may have held 20 years ago, the Human Genome Project has successfully identified the instructions for every one of the ~20,000 genes in our genome.  In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of genome research today (and a major component of HudsonAlpha) is the technology to  assess all human genes rapidly and inexpensively.  Leveling the playing field by making all human genes accessible to everyone will lead to widespread use of genes in genetic tests, new drug development and development of new applications, all of which can be protected by patents based on work going on at universities, biotech startups, pharmaceutical corporations and research institutes like HudsonAlpha.  Indeed, this ruling will bring many more creative minds to the search for solutions to these problems, a result that will benefit everyone.

Richard M. Myers, Ph.D.
president and director
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology