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Bioethics expert available to comment on Supreme Court gene patent decision

June 14, 2013

The Supreme Court ruled June 13 in a unanimous decision that human genes can’t be patented, even when a company has spent millions on research to isolate those genes.

Wayne State University Law School Associate Professor Lance Gable, a public health attorney who specializes in bioethics, is available to comment on the decision and on the issues involved in the Supreme Court case of Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics.

The decision is being considered a victory for cancer patients, but Myriad Genetics officials also seem to consider the court’s “compromise” ruling as a victory, and the company’s stock value is up.

The court said a company cannot have a patent on the use and study of human genes — in this case BRACA1 and BRACA2,  genes identified and isolated by Myriad that are used to test for susceptibility to hereditary ovarian and breast cancer. Myriad held the patent for 15 years before it was challenged in the lawsuit.

But the court also said that the company deserved credit for its research, and might be eligible for a patent on a synthetic form of the genes.

Gable has been a Wayne Law faculty member since 2006, and also is a scholar with the Centers for Law and Public’s Health: A Collaborative at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities, which is affiliated with the Word Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gable received a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and a M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He also received a B.A. in political science and biology from Johns Hopkins University. Gable’s research addresses the overlap between law, policy, ethics, health and science. He has published journal articles on a diverse array of topics including public health law, ethics, and policy; research ethics; and information privacy.