In a terse note this afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court gave notice that it will once again consider the long debated question of whether human genes can be patented. The court granted certiorari to a group of plaintiffs who argue that patents on the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are owned by the diagnostic company Myriad Genetics of Salt Lake City, should be declared invalid. The case was filed on behalf of a clinician who wanted to test patients for these cancer genes without taking out a license from the company.
It is the second time the Supreme Court will examine the issue, having sent it to a lower court for reconsideration. That court did not agree with the plaintiffs, who have appealed successfully. The Supreme Court has said it will consider only one key question—whether the human genes in this dispute are "patent-eligible" material.