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Myriad quizzed by Supreme Court justices

David Hatch, Washington DC

In a landmark case with sweeping repercussions for medical research that's being closely watched around the globe, the US Supreme Court on Monday heard oral arguments on the patent eligibility of human genes

Association for Molecular Pathology v Myriad Genetics hinges on whether the building blocks of life that form the human genome are also intellectual property.

A coalition of plaintiffs that includes researchers, patients, and breast cancer and women's health groups argue that genetic material is a "product of nature" that is ineligible for patents.

Utah-based Myriad, whose supporters include the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Coalition for 21st Century Medicine, maintains that genetic material removed from the body through "invented" methods can be patented because it is no longer naturally occurring.

The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation, a non-profit legal group affiliated with the Benjamin N Cardozo School of...

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