Do You Legally Own Your DNA?

Everyone’s DNA is different, except for some identical twins.  It is a unique combination of your parent’s DNA and while it may be close to your brother’s and sister’s DNA, it isn’t the same.

Your DNA contains more information about you than any FBI or government file.  It is the complete blueprint to the formation of your body.  It governs most of the functioning of your body.  Your DNA determines how acute your sense of smell or taste is.  It keeps some people thin their whole lives and leads others to being overweight.  Your DNA can determine how healthy and how long your life will be and so much more.

But have you ever wondered or even questioned if you legally own your personal DNA?

That question is at the heart of a case being heard this week by the US Supreme Court.  Myriad Genetics Inc. owns the patents of two human genes BRCA1 and BRCA2.  These are common genes found in virtually every living human being.  Research has shown that certain mutations of these two genes can lead to breast and ovarian cancer.

Since applying for the patent on these two genes, Myriad believes that they hold the exclusive rights to them and that no other person or company can do any type of research involving them.  Whenever they have learned of someone looking at these genes, Myriad has issued cease and desist order to stop them.

Myriad believes that their patent gives them sole right to create any tests or screening for cancer that involve either of the two genes.  Their tests are not subject to anyone’s scrutiny or verification of accuracy.  This is important because there have already been women, especially black women, who have been told that they carry one of the variants of the genes, but Myriad says they don’t know if that particular variant can make them more susceptible to cancer or not.  No one else is allowed to follow up or do anything to help these women.

Consequently, a large group of genetic and women’s health organizations, as well as the ACLU and cancer researchers, have joined in filing a brief before the Supreme Court challenging the right to hold a patent on human genes shared by everyone.  One of their principle arguments is that patents can only be held on man-made inventions and Myriad did not create either of the genes.

The ramifications of this case are enormous.  If the Supreme Court upholds Myriad’s patents, then any company or person can file for patents to control other genes.  Before long, you may not have the legal right to any of your own genes.  Your DNA may end up belonging to everyone else but you.

The ramification is that such patents prevent others from conducting research to cure thousands of diseases and genetic disorders.  Imagine if a white supremacist filed for and was awarded the patent on the genes that cause sickle cell anemia, which affects blacks.  They could legally block any cure or treatment for the disease that involves the genes responsible for it.

Tay-Sachs disease is another genetic disorder that affects mostly Jewish families.  What if a Muslim filed for and was awarded the patent for the genes that cause this disorder?  Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Jews could die as a result of the cure or treatment being blocked by anyone who is anti-Semitic.

There is a lot riding on this case and we all need to be praying that the US Supreme Court rules that Myriad does NOT own the patent on the two breast genes and that no one else can own a patent on something that God created, not man.