Slaughter wants Supreme Court to rule on gene patenting

The author of legislation banning genetic discrimination wants the Supreme Court to ban patents on human genes.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) wrote to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli on Wednesday urging him to ask the high court to take up a case concerning such patents. The federal government usually doesn't get involved in cases it's not a party to, but Slaughter argues the case puts the purpose of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in question.

"We cannot reap the full benefits of personalized medicine if researchers must each time go to patent holders in order to analyze a patient's DNA," the letter says. "The patent system was designed to encourage and reward innovation by protecting the rights of inventors. This system was not meant to cover parts of the human body or the natural world."

Slaughter hopes the Supreme Court will overturn a federal appeals court's ruling in July that genes can be patented. The case concerns Myriad Genetics, a company that holds patents on two genes that can help reveal women's susceptibility to breast cancer.