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Patenting Human Genes
Patient samples are loaded into a machine for testing at Myriad Genetics in Salt Lake City. (AP)

Patient samples are loaded into a machine for testing at Myriad Genetics in Salt Lake City. (AP)

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The human genetic code is a kind of miracle. It’s also a recipe for life.

It’s also widely seen as a giant business opportunity. Corporations, drug companies, are rapidly staking claims.

Twenty percent of the human genome has already been patented — sewn up for research and profit in the emerging field of genetic medicine. And it’s fiercely defended.

Gene patenting is controversial, but it’s the law of the land. A lawsuit headed to court right now would change that.

This hour, On Point: Playing God, pushing research, and patenting the human genome.

Guests:

Joining us from Salt Lake City is Tom Harvey, business reporter at The Salt Lake Tribune, where he’s covering the Myriad Genetics case.

Joining us from New York is Chris Hansen, Senior National Staff Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. He is lead attorney in the gene patenting lawsuit that pits the ACLU against the Salt Lake City firm Myriad Genetics and the US Patent and Trademark Office. You can read the ACLU’s complaint here (pdf).

From Washington we’re joined by Hans Sauer, Associate General Counsel for Intellectual Property for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, known as BIO. Its membership includes more than 1,200 biotechnology companies and is aligned with Myriad Genetics in defense of gene patenting.

And from New York we’re joined by Wendy Chung, M.D., Ph.D., director of clinical genetics at Columbia University and a plaintiff in the ACLU v. Myriad Genetics case.

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