Sheldon Krimsky, PhD
In May, the actress Angelina Jolie announced she had a preventive double mastectomy after learning she inherited a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene, which put her at a high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The genetic testing that gave her this information can only be conducted by one company, Myriad Genetics, which owns a patent on the gene sequences for BRCA1 and a related gene, BRCA2.
Soon the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if Myriad Genetics, based in Utah, can continue to hold the patent. The court’s decision is expected to have far-reaching ramifications. The plaintiffs argue that no one can patent a product of nature. Myriad counters that its research expertise provided the means to sort through thousands of genes and find the two linked to hereditary breast cancer.
Tufts faculty member Sheldon Krimsky, who has a primary appointment as the Lenore Stern Professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning and a secondary appointment in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, is a co-founder of the Council for Responsible Genetics, a nonprofit that fosters public debate about the social, ethical and environmental implications of genetic technologies. He is the author of 12 books and more than 190 papers and reviews about the relationships among science, ethics and public policy. He recently discussed the Myriad case with Tufts Now. MORE>>