The controversial Senate Inquiry into the patentability of genes
and other biological material appears to have been subdued, at
least for now, as a result of the recent Australian federal
The Inquiry resulted from anxiety raised in 2008 when a
Melbourne-based company, Genetic Technologies, which held an
exclusive license to conduct tests for determining susceptibility
to breast cancer based on mutations in genes BRCA-1 and BRCA-2,
decided to assert their rights and charge licensing fees. The
resulting potential increase in breast cancer testing costs
resulted in a "front-page outcry". Although Genetic
Technologies ultimately backed down, the scare motivated Senator
Bill Heffernan to secure an inquiry by the Australian Senate's
community affairs committee into the patentability of genes and
other biological material.
It is testament to the complexity of the issues involved that
the deadline for reporting the Senate committee's
recommendations was extended on three separate occasions.
Ultimately, the most recent deadline of 2 September 2010 was
circumvented by the federal election held on 21 August 2010. As a
result, the committee was required to report. However, unable to
provide a comprehensive report at this time, a brief report issued
merely summarising the terms of reference and the conduct of the
In view of the considerable public interest and substantial
debate in relation to the subject matter of this Inquiry, it seems
very likely that it will continue once the new Parliament sits and
we will keep you updated on any future recommendations and how they
may potentially impact on the biotechnology patent landscape in
For further information contact GrantShoebridge@ShelstonIP.com
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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