Valley Bookseller is thrilled to be hosting the launch party for Jorge L. Contreras and his debut book, The Genome Defense: Inside the Epic Legal Battle to Determine Who Owns Your DNA.
**Event is free, no need to register**
About the book:
"In this riveting, behind-the-scenes courtroom drama, a brilliant legal team battles corporate greed and government overreach for our fundamental right to control our genes.
When Chris Hansen, an ACLU lawyer, learned that the US government was issuing patents for human genes to biotech companies, his first thought was: How can a corporation own what makes us who we are? Then he discovered that women were being charged exorbitant fees to test for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer—all because Myriad Genetics had patented the famous BRCA genes. So he sued them.
The Genome Defense gives us a front-row seat as Hansen and a team of ACLU lawyers, along with a committed group of activists, scientists, and physicians, take their one-in-a-million case all the way to the US Supreme Court. Jorge L. Contreras, an attorney at the forefront of genetics law, interviews more than a hundred key players as he lays out the groundbreaking legal strategy to challenge human gene patents. The culmination of years of work, his book is both an intimate look at the cancer survivors whose lives have been affected by this case and a sweeping investigation into the fallout from our technological age of discovery.
Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Genome Defense is a powerful and compelling story about how society struggles to balance scientific advancement, corporate profits, and the rights of all people."
About the author, Jorge L. Contreras:
"I am a law professor at the University of Utah, where I write and teach about intellectual property law and science policy. I also study laws relating to genetics and genomics, and have an adjunct faculty appointment in the Department of Human Genetics. I received my law degree from Harvard Law School and my undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering and English from Rice University."
Kirkus Reviews: "Everyone agrees that patents are essential to allow inventors to profit from their inventions, but what is “patentable” remains a subject of fierce debate, notes Contreras, who teaches intellectual property, science policy, and the law and ethics of genetics at the University of Utah. New machines, methods, or materials qualify, but naturally occurring substances don’t. As such, a botanist who discovers a previously unknown mushroom can’t patent it because he only found it; he didn’t invent it. Yet, somehow, genes qualify. During the 1970s and ’80s, genetic engineering exploded when courts began approving patents for genetically modified organisms, and entrepreneurs pushed the envelope by asking for and receiving patents on sequences of human DNA. “By late 1996,” writes Contreras, “the journal Nature reported that more than 350 new gene patent applications had been filed. Genes that could help to diagnose predispositions to more and more health conditions.” There was no shortage of religious and scientific argument in opposition, but gene patents were legal, and changing a law requires legal arguments. Although it had never litigated a patent case, the ACLU decided in 2009 to take action and chose a target to maximize public interest. It focused on a woman who had a gene that put her at increased risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, the test for which was in the hands of a company that owned the patent, monopolized the diagnostic test, and set a high price that insurance often did not cover. Having set the scene, Contreras assembles a large cast of lawyers, judges, activists, scientists, and patients and engagingly describes four years of tortuous legal action that saw victory in federal court, reversal on appeal, and a final triumph in the Supreme Court. A detailed account of patent law that, against all odds, turns out to be fascinating."
Publishers Weekly: "In his eye-opening debut, law professor Contreras vividly tells the inside story of AMP v. Myriad, the 2013 Supreme Court case that took on the question “Are human genes patentable?” The case marked the ACLU’s first-ever patent case, an unlikely battle for the famed civil rights organization, and an unlikelier victory spurred by the long-standing but controversial patenting of human genes. Contreras describes how the ACLU mobilized a remarkable team and a powerful public campaign to bring the issue before the Supreme Court, challenging Myriad Genetics’ patent claims against its BRACAnalysis test (which was used to detect mutations linked to breast and ovarian cancer). Examining both sides of the legal battle, the author carefully explains the pertinent scientific as well as legal points: whether or not an isolated human gene is patentable, he explains, “hinges on whether it is more accurately described as a product of nature (not patentable) or a man-made substance (patentable).” Contreras brings the large cast of case-participants to life with vivid prose, and the exciting final spectacle before the Supreme Court is heart-pumping—of the packed courtroom, Contreras writes, “at precisely ten, a high-pitched chime sounded and the room quickly became quiet.” The result is a thorough page-turner."
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