The Genome Defense: Inside the Epic Legal Battle to Determine Who Owns Your DNA

Jorge L. Contreras. Algonquin, $27.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-61620-968-1
In his eye-opening debut, law professor Contreras vividly tells the inside story of AMP v. Myriad, the 2013 Supreme Court case that took on the question “Are human genes patentable?” The case marked the ACLU’s first-ever patent case, an unlikely battle for the famed civil rights organization, and an unlikelier victory spurred by the long-standing but controversial patenting of human genes. Contreras describes how the ACLU mobilized a remarkable team and a powerful public campaign to bring the issue before the Supreme Court, challenging Myriad Genetics’ patent claims against its BRACAnalysis test (which was used to detect mutations linked to breast and ovarian cancer). Examining both sides of the legal battle, the author carefully explains the pertinent scientific as well as legal points: whether or not an isolated human gene is patentable, he explains, “hinges on whether it is more accurately described as a product of nature (not patentable) or a man-made substance (patentable).” Contreras brings the large cast of case-participants to life with vivid prose, and the exciting final spectacle before the Supreme Court is heart-pumping—of the packed courtroom, Contreras writes, “at precisely ten, a high-pitched chime sounded and the room quickly became quiet.” The result is a thorough page-turner. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/09/2021
Release date: 10/26/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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