Life just got easier—and cheaper—for Australian medical researchers, clinicians, and patients needing genetic testing. On 6 October Australia’s highest court overturned a lower court decision by ruling that an isolated gene sequence is not a “patentable invention.” The decision brings to an end a long-running legal saga kick-started in 2010 by cancer survivor Yvonne D'Arcy, now age 69.
The ruling also aligns Australian legislation with that of the United States, South America, and most of Asia. Canada allows human gene patenting, as does the European Union if the biological material has been isolated by a technical process.
D'Arcy challenged patents over the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes held by U.S. firm Myriad Genetics and its Melbourne-based licensee Genetic Technologies. Both genes significantly increase a woman’s chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad had used the genetic information to develop diagnostic tests over which it or its international representatives held a potentially lucrative monopoly.