Speaker, Panel Examine Myriad Genetics Ruling and Biomedical Patents

Attorney Chris Hansen will discuss “Owning the Genome: Myriad Genetics and Biomedical Patents” on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center Auditorium.

This year the Supreme Court held that genes found in nature cannot be patented, invalidating Myriad Genetics’ patents on the human breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other nonprofits led the charge and litigator Chris Hansen took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Questions remain, however. What will lower courts make of the Supreme Court’s distinction of “cDNA,” already receiving criticism from scientists? And how is Myriad Genetics continuing to defend its assertion of proprietary controls on the tests?  Hansen will discuss the case, and a panel of scientists and technology transfer experts will respond.

Hansen joined the ACLU in 1973, working on complex litigation involving mental retardation, mental health and child welfare systems, and school desegregation. Hansen led the ACLU’s efforts to protect Internet speech under the First Amendment, culminating in the landmark Supreme Court case Reno v. ACLU (1997). Hansen has argued cases in multiple courts at all levels; he retired from the ACLU earlier this year.

The panel will include Courtney Babbitt, assistant professor in the biology department; Joseph Jerry, science director at Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute, director of the Center for Breast Cancer Research, and professor in veterinary and animal sciences, and Frederick Reinhart, Jr., director of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property.

“Owning the Genome” is sponsored by the Science and Engineering Library, College of Natural Sciences, Office of Research and Engagement, Commonwealth Honors College and the American Bar Association University Intellectual Property Law Committee.