23andMe patents Parkinson's gene

This week the 'personal genomics' company, 23andMe, announced their first patent on a discovery from their web-based Parkinson's study.

A patent is an exclusive right given by law to inventors to make use of, and develop, their inventions for a limited period of time.

23andMe's patent relates to a
subtle change in the genetic code that may reduce a person's risk of developing Parkinson's.

In science, patents can be used to protect new discoveries, like potential drugs, from being exploited by others. This means patented ideas and discoveries can be bought, sold and invested in.

Over 6,500 people with Parkinson's from all over the world have taken part in the study so far. Participants fill in an internet survey about their
symptoms and lifestyle and provide a sample of saliva containing their DNA.

It's very
rare for Parkinson's to be inherited. But access to such a huge amount of information has allowed the researchers to pinpoint genetic changes that slightly affect the risk of developing the condition.

The question of whether genetic discoveries can be patented is a hot topic that's
currently being debated in the US courts.

There are
2 sides to the story. Companies like 23andMe argue that patents are the best way to translate discoveries into new treatments. But critics say patents hinder the progress of academic research.

What do you think about patenting Parkinson's genes? Tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment below or email us on


turnip said...

The existence of a gene sequence can not be patented any more than the existence of a species of animal or planet - mere discovery of something that already exists does not add anything to what was already there. The information that this seqence has an effect on the organism is also only discovery. However, the use of this information could be patentable. But I would say it is only patentable if it is not obvious, i.e. it must involve some intellectual originality to derive an non-obvious use. It is completely obvious that if a gene causes an effect then that gene can be used in diagnostics and interventions. Therefore the discovery of this causal connection is not in itself patentable - it is waiting fully-formed to be discovered by anyone and requires no intellectual originality to be found and used. If an original technique is used then the technique can be patented. If the gene had other uses outside the obvious uses, then those uses could also be patented.

Anonymous said...

If you read it through it clearly states that they have applied for a patent for specific screening methods and techniques associated with certain polymorphisms associated with some genes they have found are common amongst people with Parkinson's Disease who have had their DNA tested and answered surveys.
The DNA test and surveys are free of charge

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.