Statement by NIH Director Francis Collins on U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Gene Patenting
June 13, 2013
I am very pleased with today's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Assoc. for Molecular Pathology Et Al. v. USPTO and Myriad Genetics, Inc. Et Al. that genes isolated from the human body are not patentable. The decision represents a victory for all those eagerly awaiting more individualized, gene-based approaches to medical care.
The right to control exclusively the use of a patient's genes could have made it more difficult to access new tests and treatments that rely on novel technologies that can quickly determine the sequence of any of the estimated 20,000 genes in the human genome. Such approaches form the cornerstone of the rapidly emerging field of personalized medicine, in which diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive strategies can be tailored to each person's unique genetic makeup.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Almost all diseases result from a complex interaction between an individual’s genetic make-up and environmental agents. Subtle differences in genetic factors cause people to respond differently to the same environmental exposure. This explains why some individuals have a fairly low risk of developing a disease as a result of an environmental insult, while others are much more vulnerable. As scientists learn more about how genetics and environmental factors work together to cause human diseases, they will be able to develop new strategies for the prevention and treatment of many illnesses. The Genes and Environment Initiative is a five-year, NIH-wide effort to identify the genetic and environmental basis of asthma, diabetes, cancer, and other common illnesses. This initiative will support the development of new procedures for analyzing genetic variation in groups of patients with specific illnesses, and new technologies for measuring exposures to chemical and biological agents, dietary intake, physical activity, psychosocial stress, and addictive substances.
Health Studies & Clinical Trials
What NIEHS is Doing on Gene-Environment Interaction
- 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC)
- A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change (Full Report) (4MB)
- Alcohol Binges Early in Pregnancy Increase Risk of Infant Oral Clefts
- Environment and the Developing Brain (681KB)
- Genetic Variation and Gene Environment Interaction in Human Health and Disease (231KB)
- NIEHS Pocket Card (448KB)
- Nih Pioneer Discovers Genes Linked to High Altitude Tolerance (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2012/3/science-tolerance/index.htm)
- Paraoxonases — poster-children for gene-environment interactions (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2012/10/science-paraoxonase/index.htm)
- Programs and Initiatives: Climate Change and Human Health
- Researchers Call for Changes in Policy and Reproductive Healthcare (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2012/4/spotlight-reproductivehealth/index.htm)
- Respiratory Disease and the Environment (1MB)
- Review Calls for Effective Communication in Evolutionary Genomics Studies (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2012/3/spotlight-genomics-studies/index.htm)
- SBRP: The Role of Gene/Environment Interactions in the Etiology of Parkinson's Disease) (http://tools.niehs.nih.gov/sbrp/researchbriefs/view.cfm?Brief_ID=99)
- Staff and Grantees at Upcoming Workshop (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2012/4/science-upcomingworkshop/index.htm)
- UNC TV Focus On Health: Epigenetics
- You and Your Genes - Making it in a Tough Environment (286KB)
- Environmental Diseases: Environmental Diseases From A to Z (English) (4MB)
- Environmental Factors and Breast Cancer Risk (1MB)
- From Genes to Personalized Medicines
- Genes and Environment Initiative
- Genes, Behavior, the Environment, and Health
- Genes: What We Knew, Know, and Hope to Learn
- Genetics of Common, Complex Disease
- Gene Toxicity and Cancer
- Household Products Database
- Human Genome Project
- Linking Early Environmental Exposures to Adult Diseases (1MB)
- Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms: Gene Environment Interaction
- Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms: Genetic Variation
- Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms: Risk
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
- The Interagency Working Group on Climate Change and Health (1MB)
- Your Genes, Your Health - A multimedia guide to genetic disorders. The sites profiles fifteen disorders (e.g., hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, etc.) and explains the disease, how it is inherited, nature of symptoms, how prevalent it is and latest treatments.
- Cluster or Coincidence - This resource includes video produced by WGBH (Boston) that talks about an autoimmune disease called scleroderma. Health officials explain that there is a genetic predisposition to scleroderma, and there may be environmental factors involved as well. Resource includes discussion questions.
- Science Behind the Human Genome Project - Provides a full description of the human genome project and has a guide to Genetics 101 to understand the science behind the project. Explores ethical, social and legal issues surrounding genetically modified food, gene therapy, gene testing, use of genetics in the courtroom, etc.
- EHP Student Edition Lesson: Build a Personal Sensor (115KB)
- EHP Student Edition Lesson: Investigating PAHs: Your Own Mini-Epi Study (85KB)
- Risk Factor Roulette (261KB)
- Tracing the Origins of Autism: A Spectrum of New Studies (158KB)