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Supreme Court DNA Ruling Hits Home for Austin Cancer Survivor

Publication: (Website of YNN-TV), Austin

Thursday's Supreme Court ruling making human genes beyond the reach of patents hits home for Genae Girard.

"The six plaintiffs, me being one of them, have spent over two years of our life involved in this,” said Girard, a breast cancer survivor.

The patients have been fighting against Myriad Genetics, a company that, up until Thursday, had a patent on BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes. Those genes can determine the risk a person has for breast and ovarian cancer.

"When I found out that I was positive for BRCA 2, I wanted to get a second opinion on it and I couldn't get the test rerun. My insurance wouldn't cover it and they wouldn't do it," Girard said.

Because of its patent on the genes, Myriad was the only company that administered the test. That didn't sit well with Girard.

"If a company can own a part of the body, then it would not only retard medical research but it's going to cost everyone a fortune to get treatment,” Girard said.

The Supreme Court sided with Girard and the other plaintiffs in the case, ruling that DNA is a product of nature and cannot be patented. As a result, Dr. John Sandbach with Texas Oncology said a couple of things could happen.

"We'll see competition in the market place for other gene testing that will, in essence, drop the price to the consumer to make testing more available to the general public," Sandbach said.

He said BRCA testing currently costs $4,500 dollars on average and it's something we all need to pay attention to.

"What this means for everybody in our country is that there's going to be better health care,” Girard said. “They're not going to have to worry about a company being able to patent something that exists in nature and it's going to be a lot more affordable."

Myriad put a positive spin on the ruling, calling it a victory. That's because the court upheld some of the company’s patent claims, while rejecting others.

The company released a statement that can be read here.

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