Katie Couric's Notebook: Gene Patents

Should companies be able to patent human genes? That question lies at the heart of an ongoing court battle challenging the patents on two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

The defendants, Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah, argue that without the ability to patent genes, companies wouldn't invest millions of dollars in research...since a competitor could reap the rewards. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU, say such patents drive up testing costs and stifle innovation.

Myriad lost its case in March but quickly appealed. And now the Justice Department has jumped in, agreeing with the lower court that human genes should not be eligible for patents because they're simply a part of nature.

It's a delicate balance. No one wants to hamper companies like Myriad, but we also shouldn't limit access to something as basic as our DNA. The human genome still holds secrets that can save lives. And you can't put a price-tag -- or a patent -- on that.

That's a page from my notebook.

I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.


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