Annual Health Law Symposium 2015: Designer Genes: The Cost of Genetic Information

DePaul’s Annual Health Law Symposium, Designer Genes: The Cost of Genetic Information, was a major success.  On Tuesday March 3rd, over seventy-five attendees took part in an interesting and informative discussion, with numerous participants joining in via our live stream, regarding the governmental and private collection of genetic material and the legal implications surrounding this exciting and relevant topic. The presenters this year included speakers from the fields of medicine, economics, ethics and the law.  Professors Wendy Epstein and Professor Joshua Sarnoff moderated the symposium and helped facilitate discussion at the event.

The symposium started with a presentation by Professor Patrick Knott, PhD, PA-C, from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.  Dr. Knott discussed current trends in the gathering of genetic material from the point of view of a medical clinician.  He spoke at length about his participation in a study performed by the University of Utah designed to identify a Scoliosis gene.   A vibrant discussion followed in which participants weighed the benefits of new genetic-gathering capabilities against patients’ rights and ethical concerns surrounding commercial uses of the information. 

The mid-morning panelists focused their talks on the intersection of intellectual property, economics, and the collection of genetic information.  Anne Layne-Farrar, PhD, an economist with Charles River Associates, lent needed insight into the economics behind royalty stacking and product hopping within the gene patenting realm.  Complementing her presentation was Gustavo Siller, Partner at Brinks, Gilson & Lione .  Mr. Siller’s talk helped shed light on the fair trade and patent issues that typically attach to medical devices.  After their presentations, the two panelists shared varying predictions of where the industry is headed.

The conversation continued into the afternoon with panelists Kevin Noonan, PhD and Bette-Jane Crigger, PhD.  Dr. Noonan, Partner at McDonnell, Boehnen, Hulbert & Berghoff, LLP, presented on the state of gene patenting in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Myriad, where the Supreme Court found that products of nature, like a naturally occurring DNA segment, are not patent eligible merely because they have been isolated.  Dr. Crigger, Director of Ethics Policy and Secretary of Council on Ethics & Judicial Affairs at the American Medical Association, finished off the event with a thought-provoking presentation on the ethical concerns surrounding personalized medicine. 

Overall, the symposium was a great success!  Thanks to all the members of the DePaul Journal of Health Care Law and the Mary and Michael Jaharis Health Law Institute for putting together an interesting and an informative event!