A new study published in the European Journal of Human Genetics says that some gene patents are "problematic" as they have the potential to hinder patient access to diagnostics. Coming on the heels of the recent news from the US on Myriad Genetics' BRCA gene patents, the study examines concerns about how gene patents affect diagnosticians and patients, and develops a "patent categorization method" to determine which patents could cause a problem. The authors apply this method to patents relevant for genetic testing of spinocerebellar ataxia, the most widely used DNA test in adult neurology. The test is typically done as a gene panel covering the five most common SCA subtypes. "We show that the patenting of SCA genes and testing methods and the associated licensing conditions could have far-reaching consequences on legitimate access to this gene panel," the authors write. "Moreover, with genetic testing being increasingly standardized, simply ignoring patents is unlikely to hold out indefinitely." The current patenting landscape cannot continue as is, the authors conclude, adding that there is a need for more licensing and collaboration in diagnostics.
Aug 05, 2011