Nightly News   |  June 13, 2013

SCOTUS rules against gene patenting

On Thursday a unanimous Supreme Court said Myriad Genetics of Utah was not eligible to patent genes because it did not create those genes: nature did, and nature cannot be patented. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> an important decision from the supreme court today, that is likely to affect the emerging field of genetic medicine and make some tests cheaper. parts of the human body , individual genes, could be patenteded, in effect, owned by a company? pete williams has more on this tonight.

>> reporter: the court's decision involves the medical tests that actress angelina jolie took before deciding undergo a double mastectomy last month.

>> i feel great, i feel wonderful and i'm grateful for the support.

>> reporter: the test detects mutations in two genes that can predict higher rates of breast and ovarian cancers. it was given a patent on those actual genes. elizabeth of massachusetts was among those suing, claiming myriad's monopoly made the test too expensive.

>> my genetic counselor told me my health insurance wouldn't cover genetic testing .

>> reporter: a unanimous supreme court says myriad is not eligible for a patent. a huge gene is a product of nature and cannot be patented. enough other patents survive to protect its test from the competition. but it frees up the genes for more research and the other companies trying to offer a cancer screening test of their own.

>> a good day for patient advocates and individual patients that are looking for access to cheaper and alternative tests. when you don't have a monopoly on the gene.

>> myriad's challengers say the ruling could create more research to find other human genes linked to specific diseases. rulings on same-sex marriage, future of affirmative action and voting rights act . next day for decision is this coming monday. pete williams , supreme court .