A New York court has ruled that the patents held by Myriad Genetics on BRCA1 and BRCA2 (both of which appear to cause breast cancer) are invalid. News report here and link to full judgment here (Warning: PDF).
Our improved ability to map the human genome, and our ability to isolate parts of it with greater accuracy, have led to a minor gold-rush as bio-tech companies around the world compete to patent as much of the human genome as possible. Plant genes have also been patented by the likes of the Monsanto corporation.
This decision is a welcome development, especially when one considers the similar decision of the European Patent Office in 2004, which revokes the same patents, and I hope it is upheld on appeal. While companies should be allowed to patent any new breeds that they engineer, it is ridiculous to suggest that discovering something that exists in nature, and has been a part of humanity for millennia, is akin to inventing it. Allowing companies to mark out a gene as being only for their use hinders research and limits the scope of future investigations.