This past summer, the Supreme Court decided biotech companies could not patent human genes extracted through genetic testing. What are the implications of such a decision for businesses and consumers? This decision is advantageous for both. Why? It keeps prices down for the consumer assuring most anyone can afford needed genetic testing and prevents a monopoly on any genetic testing done for both research and medical purposes. That means more than one company can offer a particular type of genetic testing, and it is more affordable and accessible to the public.

The brouhaha all started with the company Myriad Genetics. First, this company discovered with genetic testing the “precise location and sequence” of two genetic mutations that are a significant risk factor for breast cancer, BRAC1 and BRAC2 genes. After making this discovery, they created their own form of genetic testing to find these mutations and decided to patent it. Angelina Jolie made the decision to have a double mastectomy after discovering she had these genes based on a very expensive test. It cost some $3,000 because of Myriad Genetics’ monopoly. (“Biotech Companies No Longer Have the Right to Patent Human Genes”).


Of course, the fight ended with the Supreme Court’s decision, but our vision of it was of Angelina Jolie cast in the limelight once again. However, instead of being a hell-on-wheels wife doing her best to use every means to kill her husband in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, she sounded more like any woman afraid of getting breast cancer. The only difference was she could foot any bill they handed her.

Perhaps Angelina Jolie did not realize it, but the feeling many probably had when reading articles where she discussed her genetically inherited condition was not one of empathy alone but fear- fear upon the realization that most could ill afford genetic testing of this kind. Where did that leave the majority of women? Many, no doubt, were left wondering if they had the same genetic mutations especially if they had a high risk factor like Angelina Jolie’s. But Angelina Jolie was not left to wonder. She got tested and made a decision.

The Supreme Court made the right call. No one should have a monopoly on genetic testing. Genetic testing should not just be for the Angelina Jolie’s of the world but affordable for anyone who needs it.

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