Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Patent protections and the stuff of life

By ruling that naturally occurring genetic material is not subject to patent protection, the U.S. Supreme Court has drawn a useful line between what nature makes and what constitutes a man-made invention. This distinction will encourage scientific innovation by preventing companies from holding back patented genes from research, and it will bring new competition to the field of genetic testing, pushing down prices for determining a genetic propensity to disease. More people will now be able to protect their health without navigating or paying a gantlet of individual patent holders.

In the court's unanimous opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that Myriad Genetics, a company that had successfully isolated the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, had simply found the genes as they existed in nature. "To be sure," Thomas wrote, "it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention."

This was the crux of the case. Myriad had been granted a broad patent on the genes based on the claim that by discovering their precise location and sequence and by extracting them, the company had effectively created DNA in a new form. The monopoly allowed the company to charge $3,000 or more for the genetic test that could tell if a woman had a mutation in the genes that would indicate she was at high risk for certain cancers down the road. Actress Angelina Jolie had this kind of test and decided to undergo a preventive double mastectomy after learning she had the problem gene.

Since the court opinion was released Thursday, other biotech companies have said they will start testing for the genes at a fraction of the cost.

There are good reasons to make natural phenomena, laws of nature and abstract ideas not patentable. As Thomas explained, these are the tools that scientists and researchers use to form the basis of their work. A patent might put them out of reach and stymie progress. "This would be at odds with the very point of patents, which exist to promote creation," Thomas wrote.

The court left the door open for patenting synthetic or complementary DNA, which is genetic material manipulated in a way not found in nature. That means companies that genetically engineer crops probably won't be affected, and other businesses, like the pharmaceutical industry, will still be able to reap commercial benefits from biotechnology.

But the court was right to end patents on genes themselves. Scientific research will have more freedom; more competition in genetic testing will bring down medical costs; and patients will have unfettered access to their own genome.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the stateís 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice theyíve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Childrenís Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institutionís lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburgís 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18