Cancer Voices Australia and a 66-year-old cancer survivor contested US-based Myriad Genetics' right to own the patent for the BRCA1 gene (it also owns the patent for BRCA2) at Australia's Federal Court, their argument being you cannot patent naturally occurring genetic material. Mutations of the two hereditary genes are linked with both breast and ovarian cancer.
In a ruling that echoed a 2012 case brought against Myriad in the US, the judge found in favour of the biotechnology firm. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Justice John Nicholas said it was a "mistake" to assume that extracting and purposefully isolating genetic mutations was not a form of "new manufacture", and that there was no need -- in the eyes of the law -- for the "product" to be very different from something that occurs in nature. Judge Nicholas' words reiterated a similar case brought against Myriad at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in the US in 2012, during which Circuit Judge Alan Lourie said: "Everything and everyone comes from nature, following its laws, but the compositions here are not natural products. They are the products of man, albeit following, as all materials do, laws of nature."