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This Grandmother Just Beat A Pharmaceutical Company In Court Over Their Patented Cancer Gene

The gene, BRCA-1, was ruled not to be patentable - with the High Court deciding it was not a "manner of manufacture."

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A sixty-nine year old grandmother has won a High Court challenge to stop the patenting of cancer gene BRCA-1.


Yvonne D'Arcy won her case after arguing that the genes were discovered in nature and not invented.

BRCA-1 is a human gene and protein mutation that when detected in the body allows early detection of certain forms of cancer, notably breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

The gene helps repair damaged DNA, and was previously patented by Myriad Genetics, a company that offered tests to detect mutations in BRCA-1.

In 2008, Myriad Genetics threatened to have the tests withdrawn from public laboratories in Australia. The American company patented the gene in the 1990s.

Although Myriad Genetics argued that the patent would allow future innovation and that the commercialisation of the gene would benefit future research, the High Court's ruling stated that an isolated nucleic acid was not a "manner of manufacture."

George Frey / AFP / Getty Images

Director of the Cancer Council Australia, Paul Grogan, told BuzzFeed News that this was a really important test case.

"This can count for other biomarkers as well, so it's good that there is clarity about what is and isn't patentable," he said. "There are numerous other commercial monopolies around other biological material and other tests to find that material, and again we hope that the case will serve as clarity that these things are not able to be patented."

"If you're talking about pathology, it's about finding things in people. It should be noted that this technology breakthrough occurred when the human genome was sequenced... It's really only been reapplying that type of technology. That doesn't make it an innovation."

D'Arcy said she was "ecstatic" with the 7-0 supreme court judge ruling.


"I don't have the genetic footprint for breast cancer, mine is hormonal," she said.

"But for all those people who do have the genetic footprint for breast cancer or any cancer basically, it's a win for them because now they're forewarned and forearmed."

"The testing will be a lot cheaper and it will be more available to them by more

geneticists rather than using only Myriad's agents at a price that nobody really can afford, except for Angelina Jolie."

"I'm only little but it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."

Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Brad Esposito at

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