ProfNet Experts Available on Gene Patent Case, Lactation Discrimination

Also in This Edition: Jobs for Writers and Media Industry Blog Posts

Jun 14, 2013, 15:45 ET from ProfNet

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  • Supreme Court Decision on Human Gene Patent
  • SCOTUS Gene Patent Case
  • Unanimous Supreme Court Decision on Patent Case
  • Lactation Discrimination Ruling Rightly Reversed
  • Lactation Ruling Could Have Unintended Consequences


  • Beat Reporter – The Oregonian (OR)
  • Reporter – TimesDaily (AL)
  • Editorial Producer – CNBC (NY)


  • Media 411: Reporter Assaults
  • Grammar Hammer: I Think I May, I Think I Might
  • Blogger Pitches, Networking, and May vs. Might: Last Week's Top Blogs


Supreme Court Decision on Human Gene Patents
Lori Andrews
IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law
"The Supreme Court has liberated human genes. This decision is great news for patients, doctors, and scientific researchers. Half of geneticists were impeded in their research by gene patents. Now they can begin the search for cures." 
In Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court held that human genes were not patentable since they are products of nature and not inventions. Andrews filed amicus briefs in the trial court, appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court representing medical organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Society of Human Genetics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She argued that a patent on genes was not only legally inappropriate, but also a threat to public health. For the past 10 years, Andrews has studied the impact of gene patents on health care and scientific research, receiving grants from the federal Department of Energy Human Genome Project and from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Expert Contact:
Media Contact: Gwendolyn Osborne,

SCOTUS Gene Patent Case
Barbara Evans
Co-director, Health Law & Policy Institute
University of Houston Law Center
"The decision makes sense, but it is a major change that has the potential to upset business expectations of biotech firms that have structured their businesses on the assumption that genes are patentable. One hears dire forecasts that invalidating gene patents will put a halt to biotechnology investment and innovation. Frankly, those fears seem overblown."
Evans is available to explain the issues involved in the case, as well as what it means for research companies and the average citizen after the U.S. Supreme ruled that companies cannot patent human genes.
Media Contact: Carrie Criado,

Unanimous Supreme Court Decision on Patent Case
Sapna Kumar
Assistant Professor of Law
University of Houston Law Center
"We expected there to be a divided opinion from the Supreme Court on this issue. At oral argument, there wasn't a consensus regarding how to promote innovation while prohibiting something from nature to be patented. Instead, the Supreme Court issued a decisive opinion, where it unanimously held that isolated DNA is not to be patentable under the Patent Act. I think that several of us were expecting the court to use a fuzzy balancing test instead."
Kumar is available to speak about the Supreme Court's decision in the gene patent case.
Media Contact: John T. Kling,

Lactation Discrimination Ruling Rightly Reversed
Carrie Hoffman
Labor and Employment Attorney
Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP in Dallas
"Many were surprised last year when a federal court ruled that a new mother could be fired from her job for pumping breast milk during work hours based on the notion that such a firing did not rise to the level of sexual discrimination because 'lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.' But the tide turned with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' recent reversal of the earlier ruling. The District Court's decision seemed to strain credibility, as this certainly fits the standard needed to bring a sexual discrimination case. However, given the conservative nature of the 5th Circuit, it still came as somewhat of a surprise to some that the appeals court sided with the employee. This decision is a strong indication of the general opinion on this issue, and certainly bolsters the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's view that addressing pregnancy-related discrimination should be a national priority."
Media Contact: Rhonda Reddick,

Ruling Could Have Unintended Consequences
Steve Fink
Thompson & Knight in Dallas
"The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' reversal of the District Court's ruling related to whether a woman who was fired for seeking permission to pump milk at work was sexual discrimination, was correct, as only females lactate naturally as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. As a result, the ruling would be generally unremarkable except the court went a little further than expected, going on to say that lactation is a 'medical condition' related to pregnancy and childbirth. That should come as news to wet nurses, but has implications for employers beyond lactation. It will be interesting to see if future legal challenges occur, perhaps based on whether other physical and mental changes that can accompany pregnancy and childbirth will now be considered 'medical conditions' that an employer must ignore when making employment decisions."
Media Contact: Barry Pound,


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