Probably not. But genes linked to a high risk of breast cancer? You betcha.
ScienceBlogling Rebecca Skloot has a very good piece about the lawsuit brought by the ACLU against Myriad, the company that owns the patent for the ‘breast cancer genes’ BRCA1 and BRCA2 (she provides some more background here).
To me, the really galling thing is that Myriad didn’t discover these genes, publicly funded research did. The goal of that research is not to enrich patent holders, but to improve human health for society as a whole. The patent drives up diagnosis costs by preventing anyone else from entering the diagnosis market: the $3,000 it costs to screen for these genes is a little over half of the price of resequencing** an entire bacterial genome at high coverage (and the latter cost includes labor, amortization of machines, etc.–the bacterial genome cost is priced as a business would).
That’s obscene and immoral. Kill that patent.
*When Jonas Salk, inventor of the first polio vaccine, was asked if he would patent the vaccine, he answered, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”
**And I predict by the end of 2009 (give or take), sequencing centers will be doing de novo bacterial genome sequencing at roughly the same cost, if not cheaper.