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Supreme Court Gene Patents Ruling Opens Genetic Test Options

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the courts-making-medicine-better dept.

Medicine 22

vinces99 writes "The Supreme Court's unanimous decision to bar the patenting of naturally occurring genes opens up important clinical testing options for a variety of diseases, which University of Washington medical geneticists and laboratory medicine experts say will benefit patients. Mary-Claire King, a UW geneticist who was instrumental in identifying the breast cancer-causing genes at the heart of the court case, hailed the ruling as 'a victory for patients, their families, their physicians and common sense.' She noted that within 24 hours after the decision was announced on June 13, UW Laboratory Medicine was offering tests for all known breast cancer genes."

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Better check for nigger blood first! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44074335)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your apeman will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.

INSTALLING YOUR NIGGER.

You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately after unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.

CONFIGURING YOUR NIGGER

Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat.

HOUSING YOUR NIGGER.

Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.

FEEDING YOUR NIGGER.

Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.

MAKING YOUR NIGGER WORK.

Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 75 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.

ENTERTAINING YOUR NIGGER.

Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include: 1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing. 2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one). 3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit. 4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood. 5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.

DISPOSAL OF DEAD NIGGERS.

Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.

COMMON PROBLEMS WITH NIGGERS MY NIGGER IS VERY AGGRESIVE

Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?

MY NIGGER KEEPS RAPING WHITE WOMEN

They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.

WILL MY NIGGER ATTACK ME?

Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).

MY NIGGER BITCHES ABOUT ITS "RIGHTS" AND "RACISM".

Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.

MY NIGGER'S HIDE IS A FUNNY COLOR. WHAT IS THE CORRECT SHADE FOR A NIGGER?
A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".

MY NIGGER ACTS LIKE A NIGGER, BUT IS WHITE.

What you have there is a "wigger". Rough crowd.

IS THAT LIKE AN ALBINO? ARE THEY RARE?

They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it. The best thing for any wigger is a dose of TNB.

MY NIGGER SMELLS REALLY BAD

And you were expecting what?

WHERE SHOULD I STORE MY DEAD NIGGER?

When you came in here, did you see a sign that said " Dead nigger storage"? That's because there ain't no goddamn sign.

Re:Better check for nigger blood first! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44074689)

Can I use a HOSTS file to block your posts?

Re:Better check for nigger blood first! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44074831)

127.0.0.1 slashdot.org

It is a hopeful, small step in the right direction (4, Insightful)

rts008 (812749) | about a year ago | (#44074417)

"... within 24 hours after the decision was announced on June 13, UW Laboratory Medicine was offering tests for all known breast cancer genes."

A prime example of how current IP law and mentality have hindered usefulness and innovation of technology.

Hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call to much needed IP law reform.

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44074439)

+1 Naive.

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (1, Funny)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about a year ago | (#44074537)

"... within 24 hours after the decision was announced on June 13, UW Laboratory Medicine was offering tests for all known breast cancer genes."

A prime example of how current IP law and mentality have hindered usefulness and innovation of technology.

Hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call to much needed IP law reform.

This is nothing more than a slap in the face of Capitalism. I say let the free market decide who lives and who dies!

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (4, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#44074591)

The fact that the supreme court said genomic DNA was not patentable but cDNA was means that the issue isn't resolved, but momentum is on the side of sanity. Had the supreme court said "No, neither are patentable because you didn't fucking make those sequences, and cDNA is just genomic DNA with parts taken out," then the issue would have been resolved, which would have been good, but we couldn't say "See, IP laws are holding back cancer research and are STILL not fixed."

Perhaps the SC's incompetence to realize that reverse transcriptase is a naturally occouring enzyme, and viruses make cDNA all the time, and your cells remove introns all the time, so there is absofuckinglutely nothing patentable about cDNA... perhaps that will actually be useful in the larger battle.

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44074657)

So if the argument was anything like your post, there was the problem. You used a lot of big fucking words. Thats good. However, they are not lawyer big words so they did not understand and went with a coin toss.

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44074819)

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

The reason you should worry, is that why the above words do say "Inventors" and nobody can claim to have invented naturally occuring genes, the above words also say "Discoveries." If I'm an inventor who discovers a gene, do the words apply to me or not?

I'm not asking about right and wrong, I'm asking what the law is.

It's hard.

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (4, Informative)

the gnat (153162) | about a year ago | (#44075205)

reverse transcriptase is a naturally occouring enzyme, and viruses make cDNA all the time, and your cells remove introns all the time, so there is absofuckinglutely nothing patentable about cDNA

But the cDNAs that people would like to patent is not simply endogenously present - it has to be created using an entirely artificial process. And reverse transcriptase isn't a naturally occurring enzyme in humans, or at least not the kind that's used to make cDNA*. And our cells remove introns only to make mRNA, not cDNA. So it's a little deceptive to say that cDNA is a natural product and therefore not patentable. If your rather simplistic argument were valid, a vast number of forms of gene manipulation and genetic engineering would become unpatentable, because organisms undergo gene manipulation all the time. (The most extreme example is probably horizontal gene transfer, but there are plenty of other weird things going on, many involving viruses.)

Now, my personal preference (as both a scientist and a consumer) is for as few patents as possible on any genetic material, and I was relieved to see Myriad get slapped down by all nine justices. But what I prefer isn't always in line with what current case law decrees is allowable, and I wouldn't call the Supreme Court incompetent just because they didn't reach the conclusion I personally favor.

(* In fact, the polymerases used in molecular biology labs are often heavily engineered for greater stability and control, and of course they're not endogenously produced but rather purified from a [heavily modified] recombinant organism expressing the protein on a [human-designed] plasmid, so the connection to the naturally occurring proteins is tenuous.)

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#44076093)

I'm not enough of a virologist to say "Retroviruses accidentally reverse transcribe human mRNAs often when we get a retroviral infection," but I'm willing to bet money they do.

Either way, the sequences of cDNA are fundamentally natural. All of the cDNA sequence is found in the genomic sequence. I can't retype a popular book on a typewriter, exclude a boring chapter or two, and claim it's novel and claim exclusive rights to it based on the fact that no one had previously typed it out on a typewriter. Transcribing and editing is all cDNA is.

If some biotech company comes up with a completely novel protein designed by a computer, they should be able to COPYRIGHT it. That's creating something, not simply copying something that's natural.

If your rather simplistic argument were valid, a vast number of forms of gene manipulation and genetic engineering would become unpatentable, because organisms undergo gene manipulation all the time. (The most extreme example is probably horizontal gene transfer, but there are plenty of other weird things going on, many involving viruses.)

I don't take it as a given that such things SHOULD be patentable. I am especially wary of techniques for manipulating genes and putting those genes into other things being patentable. But it would depend on the specifics. If you invent a completely novel retrovirus, you again should be able to apply copyright to the viral proteins you made to do genetic engineering and get exclusive rights to it, but you can't patent the idea of a retrovirus transfecting genes, nor should you be able to modify an existing virus and patent that. Maybe you should be able to copyright the modifications.

But what I prefer isn't always in line with what current case law decrees is allowable, and I wouldn't call the Supreme Court incompetent just because they didn't reach the conclusion I personally favor.

I was a little hot under the collar, they're not stupid people even when I disagree with them. And you're right, the decision was a win even if it was contradictory. But it was contradictory, and the only way I could see them making that contradiction is if they failed to realize that cDNA is fundamentally the same thing as DNA.

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (1)

the gnat (153162) | about a year ago | (#44076215)

I'm not enough of a virologist to say "Retroviruses accidentally reverse transcribe human mRNAs often when we get a retroviral infection," but I'm willing to bet money they do.

It's quite possible, but largely irrelevant - you would first have to prove that a specific cDNA under question did actually occur naturally. And in any case, a controlled process that produces large amounts of a cDNA is very different from a freak accident like this. Technically speaking, it's also possible that many patented synthetic molecules do actually occur in nature due to biological or spontaneous chemical processes. That doesn't make them unpatentable.

Either way, the sequences of cDNA are fundamentally natural. All of the cDNA sequence is found in the genomic sequence. I can't retype a popular book on a typewriter, exclude a boring chapter or two, and claim it's novel and claim exclusive rights to it based on the fact that no one had previously typed it out on a typewriter. Transcribing and editing is all cDNA is.

cDNA is a chemically synthesized product. So is (for instance) an impotence drug. To a chemist there is very little distinction, other than you're using polymerases for the first product, and probably some sort of weird metal catalyst for the second.

If some biotech company comes up with a completely novel protein designed by a computer, they should be able to COPYRIGHT it. That's creating something, not simply copying something that's natural.

I'm confused, what does copyright have to do with this?

nor should you be able to modify an existing virus and patent that

Why not? If I take a naturally occurring biological entity and modify it to do something completely different and unnatural, how is that not a patentable invention? You are basically demanding that everyone performing any kind of molecular bioengineering start completely from scratch and completely avoid anything that vaguely resembles something natural. We'd also have to avoid using traditional amino acids or nucleic acids, because those are naturally synthesized, which means we couldn't use existing biological systems to replicate our products. This is just insane; it may be an interesting research question but everything we do builds upon prior knowledge, and you are asking that we throw all that out.

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (1)

skywire (469351) | about a year ago | (#44076101)

Yours is the simplistic argument. Yes, the cDNA is 'created' using an artificial process, like copying a book with a photocopier. Copying a book doesn't make you the author, and copying the naturally occurring gene embodied in mRNA into the cDNA form doesn't make you its inventor. Or its discoverer, for that matter, despite the fact that in this case, Myriad was the discoverer of the gene. That discovery was not the rationale offered by the court for their second holding. Their shaky rationale was that Myriad did in fact invent the cDNA form of the gene.

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (1)

the gnat (153162) | about a year ago | (#44076249)

Yes, the cDNA is 'created' using an artificial process, like copying a book with a photocopier.

Maybe, if it's a photocopier that also translates the book into another language. And in that case, even if the book was public domain, the translation would not be. (Although it would be covered under copyright, not patent, but for something like DNA the distinction is difficult to make.)

Again, I am playing devil's advocate here - I was merely trying to disabuse the parent poster of the notion that any method or product which might vaguely resemble something natural is automatically excluded from patentability. I would strongly prefer that cDNA not have patent protection, but the arguments being given were poorly chosen, and could be used to exclude just about any biological product from being patented based on the presumption that it might occur naturally (by accident).

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (1)

the gnat (153162) | about a year ago | (#44076327)

Just to add to my previous arguments: in my opinion, the reason cDNA shouldn't be patentable is that it doesn't even come close to the threshold of "non-obvious". Especially in an era where whole cell mRNA extracts can be sequenced in bulk and gene synthesis is getting cheaper all the time, giving these patent protection is just a terrible idea, but I would argue that most such patents shouldn't even have passed the test when they were first issued. To anyone skilled in the art, making a cDNA is a bloody obvious thing to do. (Changing the activity of an existing gene/protein so it does something truly novel, on the other hand, I think is not so obvious.)

Re:It is a hopeful, small step in the right direct (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#44077091)

Actually the cDNAs are naturally occurring to some extent as pseudogenes. Three minutes on Google found me one for exons 5 and 6 of BRCA1 spliced together without the intron

So the situation right now is that a cDNA sequence is patentable to the extent it contains splice sites that don't occur naturally. If a sequence derived from a cDNA doesn't overlap one of the splice sites (most short probes do not) it's not patentable. If it overlaps one or more splice sites it may be patentable ... but it may not.

The big question for me now is whether any courts will extend this precedent to patents on other types of natural products.

Naturally occurring? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44074841)

What do they mean by naturally occurring? Aren't all configurations of genetics potentially naturally occurring?

Re:Naturally occurring? (1)

skywire (469351) | about a year ago | (#44076109)

They meant the actual occurrence of these particular genes in cDNA form in nature.

23&Me tests are $99, vs. Myriad's $3000+ (1)

billstewart (78916) | about a year ago | (#44075511)

23&Me's tests say they're not for diagnostic use, but as far as I can tell from most of the articles on the topic, they have a bit more detail on breast cancer related genes than Myriad's, as well as telling you about a lot more disease traits, general physical traits, ancestry data, percentage of Neanderthal DNA, etc. For a couple of the scarier traits (I think it was breast cancer and Huntington's), they do ask you to confirm that you really do want to see them. Many of the genes they're testing for are specific ones that you do or don't have (e.g. Tay-Sachs), while many others are general risks (e.g. lots of genes affect diabetes or heart disease, or strict correlation hasn't been proven) so you only get a "N times more/less likely than average" level of granularity on some of those, but they do give you the best results they've got.

Apparently I've got a lower-than-average risk of diabetes but a higher risk of male pattern baldness, my ancestors seem to come from the areas I'd expect and more of them were Neanderthals than the average western European, and a hundred or two other details like that.

Re:23&Me tests are $99, vs. Myriad's $3000+ (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#44077139)

23&Me's tests say they're not for diagnostic use, but as far as I can tell from most of the articles on the topic, they have a bit more detail on breast cancer related genes than Myriad's,

For BRCA1 and 2 the real value add right now for Myriad's test is that they have spent the last fifteen years collecting variants and correlating them with cancer occurrence. No one else has that data right now. ClinVar (a public database) has about 1000 of the most common variants, but that's estimated to be about only 1% of Myriad's.

With all due respect... (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a year ago | (#44076505)

Mary-Claire King, a UW geneticist who was instrumental in identifying the breast cancer-causing genes at the heart of the court case, hailed the ruling...

... she doesn't seem to be listed on any of the patents that were at issue. She did work in the same field and is listed on other patents, but she doesn't appear to have any relationship to the patents involved in the court case.

Factually incorrect is par for the course for Slashdot, though.

Re:With all due respect... (2)

the gnat (153162) | about a year ago | (#44076767)

She did work in the same field and is listed on other patents, but she doesn't appear to have any relationship to the patents involved in the court case.

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] : "While on the faculty at Berkeley, King demonstrated in 1990 that a single gene on chromosome 17, later known as BRCA1, was responsible for many breast and ovarian cancers—as many as 5-10% of all cases of breast cancer may be hereditary."

The patent is on uses of the sequence, which was what the now-overturned patent covers. Back in the old days, identification of genes was done not through sequencing (the Human Genome Project had just started), but by analysis of how different genotypes were inherited - the relative locations of genes could be determined based on how they segregated during cellular reproduction. As a result, many genes were identified and their approximate chromosomal positions were mapped in multiple organisms, long before the actual sequences had been isolated. This information alone wouldn't be sufficient for a genetic test for breast cancer susceptibility, but neither would the patent holders have been able to sequence the gene in 1994 without King showing them where to look for it.

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