Shobita Parthasarathy's book, Building Genetic Medicine, which informs the debate over gene patents, re-released in paperback

February 13, 2012

Shobita Parthasarathy's book on the development and implications of gene testing and patenting has been re-released in paperback by The MIT Press.

The book, Building Genetic Medicine: Breast Cancer, Technology and the Comparative Politics of Health Care, compares the development, deployment, and implications of genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer (known as BRCA gene testing) in the United States and Britain

First published in 2007, Parthasarathy's analysis has helped to inform ongoing legal and policy debates over the patentability of human gene sequences. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to take up the issue.

"My book provides a picture of how gene patenting works in practice, and how it affects research and health care," Parthasarathy said. "It also calls into question the idea that patents are a necessary incentive for research and development."

In 2010, a New York District Court judge extensively cited Parthasarathy's declaration when he ruled that human genes-specifically, the BRCA genes-were products of nature and therefore unpatentable. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and many genetic scientists, physicians, and breast cancer patients who oppose gene patents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned this decision, and the coalition of plaintiffs have appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

Parthasarathy, an associate professor of public policy and former co-director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy (STPP) Program at the Ford School, is currently on sabbatical at the American Bar Association in Chicago.

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