WHO OWNS YOUR GENES?
By Brian Andrews
If you answered this question “I DO” then you’re wrong. According to US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, your genes are owned by whichever corporation or research entity is the first to patent them. For example, a company called Myriad Genetics presently owns patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer marker genes? This means if a woman wants to test if she carries the BRCA1/2 genes, she must pay whatever price Myriad Genetics demands for the gene verification test because Myriad has a monopoly on these genes.
Presently, about 25% of your person is patented. Does this bother you? It bothers me, so I wrote a novel about it.
The topic of my debut thriller, THE CALYPSO DIRECTIVE, is genetic piracy. Genetic piracy is a new phenomenon—a byproduct of our rapid technological advancement over the past two decades in both bioscience and computing. In a nutshell, genetic piracy is obtaining information encoded in another person’s DNA and profiting from this information without that person’s consent. When I first started writing the story in 2003, it required a supercomputer and millions of dollars to sequence a person’s genome. Now, it can be done for thousands of dollars and the price is falling every month. When it costs $50 to sequence a human genome and $5 to upload and store the information in “the cloud” don’t be surprised if your genome is sequenced without your permission. Now, add into the mix that unmodified genes can be patented, and the financial incentive for genetic piracy is born.
THE CALYPSO DIRECTIVE is a thriller about identity loss—except I’m not talking about a stolen credit card or a lost driver’s license. The hero of the novel, Will Foster, has had his genome hijacked and embarks on an adventure to find out why. As he struggles to recover from the ultimate form of human exploitation, he reconnects with the woman he loves, and must find the courage to defend that which he holds most dear.