Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – December 7, 2012

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photo credit: Christopher Chan via photopin cc

photo credit: Christopher Chan via photopin cc

By: Jennifer Plank

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Supreme Court to Decide if Gene Patents are Legal
On November 30, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case of ACLU vs. Myriad Labs regarding patenting human genes. Myriad Labs patented the BRCA gene, therefore, they are the only company allowed perform medical research on the BRCA genes. Because no other companies can test for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, the testing remains very expensive for patients (approximately $5000, insurance companies pay a percentage of the test). The ACLU contends that naturally occurring genes should not be able to be patented. Myriad Labs disagrees by stating that without patents, it is not financially viable to conduct medical research. The Supreme Court will hear the case in early spring 2013. (Lynda Altman)

Genome Sequencing For Babies Brings Knowledge and Conflict – Whole genome sequencing can be used to decipher an individual’s genetic code and to screen for thousands of conditions that may impact the individual later in life. As the technology improves and becomes more common, whole genome testing will become more affordable for patients. Additionally, whole genome sequencing can be used to diagnose babies at birth. However, this use of the technology raises many questions regarding the handling of the results. For example, many adults who have had their genomes sequenced have decided to not receive results relating to the risk of incurable diseases such as Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s disease while newborn babies are unable to voice their desire to know the results. This article outlines many of the ethical issues facing whole genome sequencing for babies. (Rob Stein)

Research Grants: Conform and be Funded – Between 2002 and 2011, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded over 460,000 research grants, and the labs supported by these grants have produced numerous medical advances. However, it is unclear if the most influential researchers are funded by NIH grants. A survey of publications since 2001 suggests that approximately 60 percent of the most influential scientists (those who published papers that have been cited more than 1000 times) do not have NIH funding. This finding suggests that the NIH is not meeting their goal to fund the “best science by the best scientists.” (Joshua Nicholson and John Ioannidis)

Have an interesting science policy link?  Share it in the comments!

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 7, 2012 at 11:55 am

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