WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court says companies cannot patent human genes, a decision that could profoundly affect the medical and biotechnology industries.
In a unanimous decision, the court struck down patents held by Myriad Genetics Inc. on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Opponents say patent protection shouldn't be given to something that can be found inside the human body.
But lower courts approved, saying Myriad's genes could be patented because the DNA it isolated and took from the body has a "markedly different chemical structure" from DNA found naturally within the body.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the DNA is a product of nature and not eligible for a patent merely because it has been isolated.