Who Owns Your Genes? Hint: Not You.

You think you own the right to your own genetics, but actually someone else owns 20 percent of your genes. How can that be? Biotech companies are snatching up the patent rights.


What's the Latest Development?

When Lisbeth Ceriani was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at age 42, it was a sure sign to her doctors that genetics were in play. After overcoming the cancer, she wanted to know what were the chances of contracting it again. The best way for her to find out was to test her BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. "If mutations are found, the risk of getting breast cancer is five times more likely. The risk of getting ovarian cancer is 40 times more likely. But the test is patented by a biotech company called Myriad Genetics." Because the test was expensive and not entirely covered by Ceriani's insurance, it took her a year and a half to secure a grant to fund the test. 

What's the Big Idea?

Genetics professor Steven Salzberg, Ph.D., University of Maryland, says that while companies like Myriad Genetics should not be able to patent individual genes because they are products of nature, they are currently allowed to: "They basically own those genes. If you want to look at a gene that's patented from your own genome, you have to pay a licensing fee to the patent holder." The advance of technology may right this wrong before the law does: "Right now, it costs $10,000 to get your genome sequenced. But experts say in a few years, that cost will be less than $1,000. Then it will be possible to have your genes sequenced for all inherited mutations."

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less

How to bring more confidence to your conversations

Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.

  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
  • Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
  • There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.
Keep reading Show less

Bespoke suicide pods now available for death in style

Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.

The Sarco assisted suicide pod
Technology & Innovation

Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco! 

Keep reading Show less

Scientists find a horrible new way cocaine can damage your brain

Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.

Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
  • Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
  • Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Keep reading Show less