On November 8, Professor of Law Jorge Contreras discussed his new book, The Genome Defense, with Professor of Law Erika George and Dr. Lynn Jorde, chair of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
In 2005, two MIT researchers observed that 20% of the human genome was claimed by patents. In the same year, Chris Hansen, an ACLU attorney, and Tania Simoncelli, the ACLU’s first science advisor, began to plan a lawsuit that would attack gene patenting in America. Their target was Myriad Genetics, a University of Utah spinout company that controlled the patents on the BRCA1/2 genes. Individuals with certain variants of these genes have a high risk of contracting breast or ovarian cancer, but Myriad’s test for these variants was unaffordable to many. The ACLU’s lawsuit, which ended in a unanimous 2013 Supreme Court victory, fundamentally changed the biotechnology industry.
In “The Genome Defense”, Contreras describes the circuitous path of this remarkable lawsuit, from genetics labs to corporate boardrooms to the highest reaches of the White House. It offers valuable lessons in how the law wrestles with scientific advancements and how, with determination and luck, even the most entrenched legal regimes can be changed.
This book can be purchased locally through The King’s English Bookshop at this link.