January 29, 2015 11:31 am
There was seemingly final, victorious news for the families featured in, and many fans of, our Emmy-nominated 2008 documentary In the Family this week, as Myriad Genetics announced it was ending its patent dispute on breast cancer risk testing.
Myriad co-founder Mark Skolnick notably gave one of his only on-camera interviews to director Joanna Rudnick for In The Family, in which he argued for the use of gene patents but did not have an answer as to why the cost of the BRCA gene tests were so high. Owning the patent on the mutations gave Myriad a monopoly on testing, giving more control over research and how much they could charge women for tests. Joanna described the original 2013 Supreme Court decision against Myriad's patents as "a historic day for the BRCA community." Now Myriad has finally agreed to settle patent-infringement lawsuits it filed against other companies that now offer such testing, and the cost of the tests should be reduced for all families going through this ordeal.
Beginning with Joanna's story of testing positive for the familial breast cancer mutation (BRCA), In the Family chronicles the lives of several women currently undergoing the process of genetic testing -- following them from their decision to seek testing, through the testing process, and in the aftermath when they are coming to terms with the information they receive. The film aired on PBS' P.O.V. strand and is available to purchase on DVD.
The news comes just ahead of Joanna Rudnick's scheduled appearance as a panelist at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University's annual Conversations in Bioethics this Tuesday, February 3rd. This campus-wide discussion series brings together genomics experts and students to discuss Personal Genomics. Find out more at http://www.conversationsinbioethics.org/panelists.
Joanna Rudnick's new film, On Beauty, also deals in part with personal genomics, through the story of photographer and activist Rick Guidotti. On Beauty is still on the festival circuit following its Audience Award win at its Chicago Film Festival premiere in October 2014, and in February will play Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Frozen River Film Festival, and Reelabilities Houston. Find out more at www.iambeauty.me.