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Challenge to cancer gene patent fails in Australia

Published on Feb 15, 2013 1:36 PM

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian court on Friday dismissed a challenge against the patenting of human genetic material in a landmark case that has devastated a cancer group that says it could stifle research.

The case hinged on whether a valid patent can be granted to cover naturally occurring nucleic acids, the building blocks of living organisms - in this case the so-called breast cancer gene BRCA1.

Federal Court Justice John Nicholas rejected the argument that BRCA1, a genetic mutation associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women, cannot be patented because it is a naturally occurring substance.

He ruled instead in favour of the two medical research companies that hold the patent, United States-based Myriad Genetics and Melbourne-based Genetic Technologies.

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