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CHEO hopes Canada will follow Australian High Court ruling on gene patents
Ottawa, Ontario, October 6, 2015 — The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) applauds the Australian High Court’s ruling today that human genes cannot be patented. The ruling sets a significant international trend and CHEO is optimistic about its own legal challenge to gene patents in Canada, which was launched in November 2014.
“Two common law countries, the United States and Australia, have now agreed that human genes are not patentable. We hope Canada is next because it will help us realize the full potential of genomic medicine,” said Alex Munter, President and CEO of CHEO.
The Australian High Court ruled that the BRCA1 gene related to breast and ovarian cancer cannot be patented and recognized that human genes are not an invention. The High Court’s decision overturned two previous judgments by lower courts.
The decision comes at a critical time when we are entering the era of personalized medicine. CHEO undertook the court case – with pro bono support from Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Gilbert’s LLP and the McGill team in the PACEOMICS research project – hoping to change the law so that broad gene patents are not permitted. A favorable ruling would improve patients’ access to patented genetic tests across Canada.
CHEO originally launched the legal challenge because the hospital’s physicians and scientists were concerned that the patenting of human DNA was standing in the way of quality medical care and preventing patients from accessing their genetic information.
Doctors and scientists are on the cusp of being able to examine the whole of human DNA – not just individual genes – through new technologies. Genomics holds the promise to unlock many medical mysteries, speed diagnosis and tailor medical decisions and treatment to patients’ specific genetic profile.
CHEO is a leader in world-class genetic research such as the internationally-recognized FORGE/Care4Rare initiatives, which have already studied 370 disorders, generated 190 new diagnoses and identified 80 rare disease genes.
About CHEO
The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is the pediatric hospital of Canada’s capital and helps over 500,000 children and youth each year. CHEO has more than 2,500 doctors, nurses and staff dedicated to providing the best possible care for the children and youth of Eastern Ontario, Western Quebec, Nunavut and parts of Northern Ontario.

CHEO works closely with the University of Ottawa as a teaching hospital and fosters groundbreaking research through the CHEO Research Institute. CHEO’s vision is to change young lives in our community, while our innovation changes young lives around the world.

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Eva Schacherl
Communications Manager and Strategist
Cell: 613-769-5553
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