April 15, 2013 9:35 am
Joanna Rudnick's Emmy-nominated documentary In the Family is now available to watch for free at http://www.pbs.org/pov/inthefamily. POV has made the film available for 30 days to coincide with the Supreme Court beginning to hear arguments today in the Association for Molecular Pathology, et al v. Myriad Genetics, which will determine the legality of gene patents.
In the documentary, Rudnick covers the decisions she is faced with when she is tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene mtutation at 27. Does she have preventive surgery, which means the removal of her breasts and ovaries, or does she follow her dream of having children? During her exploration, Rudnick interviews one of Myriad's founders, Mark Skolnick. Myriad Genetics currently holds the patents for BRCA1 and 2, mutations that increase the risk of women developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer in their lifetime. In the interview, Mark Skolnick defends the use of gene patents while struggling to address the issue of rising testing costs (which are currently $3400). Watch the exposing interview excerpt here.
Since 2009, the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation and many other plaintiffs have taken Myriad Genetics to court to fight the validity of their patents and of gene patents in general. Myriad Genetics is not alone in this market. Currently, over 20 percent of the human genome is patented. These patents give laboratories control over the price of testing, what types of health insurances are accepted and what laboratories are able to research the gene. Ultimately, these patents give laboratories a monopoly on research and testing.
Since the documentary's original release, Rudnick has had two children, but has also developed breast cancer. In a new blog post, Rudnick shares some of the struggles she has been going through these past few years and the effect the Supreme Court case could have on cancer research and cases like her own.
"I strongly believe, as I did over a decade ago when I first conceived this film, that one of the barriers to finding better answers are the patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes held by Myriad Genetics," she writes.
Rudnick has not been alone in her fight. Groups such as Breast Cancer Action have also been vocal about their opposition of gene patenting. Andrea Downing informs readers with her blog Brave Bosom, which provides information about the current state of gene patenting and the stories of women who are BRCA1 and 2 positive.
In the Family will be exclusively streamed online at http://www.pbs.org/pov/inthefamily, launching with the Supreme Court hearing of the ACLU’s challenge to the BRCA genes on April 15, 2013 for 30 days (through May 15, 2013), followed by a second streaming window of 30 days around when the verdict is announced.