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New patent on autism genetic test could stall scientific research

Jim Evans, MD, PhD, was quoted in The Scientist on the potential of a North Carolina-based company charging a licensing fee to scientists who want to sequence the gene HOMER1, which has been linked to autism.

Last year Burlington-based healthcare diagnostics company LabCorp received a patent that could cover genetic tests to identify three variants in the gene HOMER1, which is one of many genes that has been linked to autism. 

According to the magazine The Scientist, the patent relates to the identification of three variants that might increase in the risk of autism in a child or fetus. the magazine says the patent could allow LabCorp to charge a licensing fee to scientists who want to sequence the gene.

Jim Evans, MD, PhD, the Bryson Distinguished Professor Genetics and Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, was quoted in the article. Here’s an excerpt.

“Gene patents restrict access to genetic tests; they restrict access to confirmatory testing and second opinions; they squelch sharing of data and they squelch research,” says James Evans, who headed a government advisory task force on the impact of gene patents. “That should be a settled issue, so it’s very depressing to see that at least in some people’s minds, it’s not.” Evans is professor of genetics and medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


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