Today the Federal Court of Australia ruled that Myriad Genetics can patent a mutation in the BRCA1 human gene. What this means is that a private company has the right to control human genes provided that they fulfil the patent requirements of inventing something new with regards to the gene in question.

While Myriad Genetics can't create genes, that wasn't up for debate;  Myriad Genetics merely argued that they undertook enough work in isolating the gene in question that they created something due to the degree of manufacture that went into isolating the gene.

This can potentially have massive implications as Myriad Genetics would have the legal right and protection to exploit their finding in any way they see fir.  Cancer organisations have warned that this could potentially lead to expensive genetic tests.

Normally no one person or company can apply to patent something that occurs in the natural world (with some exceptions, like plants and flowers) and this prohibition still remains.

It's important to understand that the Court has not decided that companies can own your genes but that rather that if a company puts so much work and effort into isolating a gene, that this work and effort can be patented and therefore can be protected from other companies copying the process and competing with Myriad.

Read the full case here as decided by the Federal Court of Australia on 5 September 2014. 

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