Gene Patents and Public Health: Setting the Scene
Geertrui Van Overwalle
Leuven University; Tilburg University
GENE PATENTS AND PUBLIC HEALTH, G. Van Overwalle, ed., Brussel, Bruylant, pp. 11-24, 2007
Over the past years we have witnessed patents related to in vitro diagnostic methods, as well as patents on human genes. Although patents on diagnostics and patents on human genes are not novel, patents on genes for diagnostics are a rather unseen combination. The grant by the European Patent Organisation (EPO) of patents covering the breast cancer gene (BRCA), its mutations, as well as diagnostic and therapeutic applications based on the gene’s sequence, evoked strong reactions and led to the questioning of the nature, legitimacy and scope of gene patents and diagnostic methods instrumental to public health. Although various of the initially granted breast cancer patents have been revoked or restricted, the discussion lingers on, as no final decision is available on the exact scope of the patents as yet. So, recent events have put the delicate relationship between patents and medicine to the test again.
The present paper provides an in-depth introduction to the book ‘Gene Patents and Public Health’, and examines and discusses the delicate balance between patents and medicine, and more in particular to the relationship between diagnostic gene patents and health care.
Keywords: Human gene patents, Breast Cancer (BRCA) patents, Diagnostic method patent, Health care, Myriad Genetics, European Patent Office,
JEL Classification: D23, D45, H 41, H51, I18, K11, L14, L 65, O31, O32, O34Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 7, 2010
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