PatentsInHumans Project Launch Event

by | Mar 29, 2023 | Project Events

 

Patents in Humans Launch Event

When: 20th April 2023
Where: Maynooth University Campus

Abstract:

On 20th April 2023, we will hold the launch event for the ERC funded PatentsInHumans Project at Maynooth University. Professor Aisling McMahon will introduce the project which examines the bioethical implications posed by patents – and how they are used -over technologies related to the human body (e.g. isolated human genes, medicines, and elements of medical devices), including how such patents can impact how we treat, use and modify our human bodies. Following this, Professor Susi Geiger  (UCD) and Dr Christine Kelly (UCD) will provide reflections on such issues based on insights from their respective fields.

This will be followed by a keynote lecture delivered by Professor Jorge Contreras on “The Civil Rights Case Against Gene Patents in America”. Professor Contreras is the James T. Jensen Endowed Professor for Transactional Law and Director of the Program on Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine. He is the author of the 2021 book, The Genome Defence: Inside the Epic Legal Battle to Determine who owns your DNA (NY:Hachette/Algonquin, 2021).

Keynote Lecture: The Civil Rights Case Against Gene Patents in America

In 2013, the US Supreme Court held that naturally occurring genetic sequences may not be patented, instantly invalidating thousands of existing patent claims and opening the market for genetic screens for cancer and other hereditary diseases.  The case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, was remarkable in many ways, not least because it was litigated as a civil rights case rather than a technical patent case.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, who brought the case in 2009, represented a group of twenty plaintiffs — researchers, professional associations, medical practitioners and individual patients – in arguing that human genes, even when isolated from the human body and purified in the laboratory, constituted “products of nature” that are ineligible for patent protection.

Yet the case hinged not only on this technical legal argument, but on a host of underlying policy considerations ranging from access to healthcare to self-knowledge and freedom of thought. As the case progressed through the courts, it attracted significant attention not only from the biotech industry and the patent bar, but from patient groups, women’s rights activists and the highest levels of the Obama Administration.

In The Genome Defense: Inside the Epic Legal Battle to Determine Who Owns Your DNA (Hachette/Algonquin, 2021), Professor Jorge Contreras brings this important and unique case to life.  Through nearly 100 interviews with attorneys, advocates, judges, patients and government officials, Contreras peels back the layers of this remarkable episode in American legal history and explains not only what happened, but why and how, and what its implications are for the future of medical research, the biotech industry and our personal relationship with our genetic makeup.

Prof. Jorge L. Contreras

Biography of Keynote Speaker: Professor Jorge L. Contreras

Jorge Contreras is the James T. Jensen Endowed Professor for Transactional Law and Director of the Program on Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine. During 2023 he is serving as a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Professor Contreras’s research focuses on intellectual property, antitrust law and science policy.

He is the editor or author of twelve books and more than 150 scholarly articles and book chapters.  During his career he has served on the US National Institutes of Health Council of Councils, the Advisory Council of the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) and the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research (NACHGR), and as Co-Chair of the National Conference of Lawyers and Scientists.

He was one of the co-founders of the Open COVID Pledge, a framework for contributing intellectual property to the COVID-19 response and sits on the World Health Organization’s Advisory Council for the Covid Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). Professor Contreras’s recent book, The Genome Defense: Inside the Epic Legal Battle to Determine Who Owns Your DNA (NY: Hachette/Algonquin, 2021), which has received praise from outlets from the New York Times and Wall St. Journal to Nature and STAT, describes the landmark civil rights litigation that ended gene patenting in America.  He is a graduate of Harvard Law School (JD) and Rice University (BSEE, BA), and an elected member of the American Law Institute.

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