Richard Gold: Myriad Genetics and Beyond: The Fallout of the US Supreme Court Decision

Fri., Nov. 8, 2013, 5:00pm

The Science and Technology Studies Colloquium resumes Thursday, November 7 at Green College, Coach House, 5:00-6:30 with wine and cheese reception to follow.

Richard Gold, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Myriad Genetics and Beyond: The Fallout of the US Supreme Court Decision
To borrow from Churchill, the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in AMP v. Myriad, dealing with human gene patents, is neither the end nor the beginning of the end but is likely only the end of the beginning of the story of human gene patents. In that case, the Court ruled that natural sequences of DNA could not be patented but that modified DNA, including complementary DNA, sequences could constitute patentable subject-matter. As with a video game in which the storyline adapts to a player’s choices, so too will the next chapters of the gene patent story depend on who one is and what one cares about. In this presentation, I discuss some of these storylines and their interconnections. One such story is the continuing debate within patent law on how to fill the holes left by the Supreme Court as well as how to apply the traditional criteria of patentability to genetic sequences. Another story concerns the public perception of gene patents and the distinction made by the Court between natural and artificial gene sequences. A third story revolves around the scientific meaning of the Court’s decision and its application to next generation testing. What becomes apparent is that, while all those stories feature the same characters and institutions, they give them very different attributes and meanings. Resolving these differences poses a major challenge to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research.