PULSE - Program on Understanding Law, Science & Evidence

NOVEMBER 22, 2013


Last term, two of the Supreme Court's most important decisions both centered around the permissible, legal uses of human DNA. These two cases, decided just ten days apart in the last weeks of the session, represent the first two cases ever decided by the Supreme Court that directly assess the legal use and regulation of information contained within the human genome.

One of those cases, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., involved the question of whether DNA sequences - specifically, the BRCA 1 & 2 genes, indicating a susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer - could receive patent protection. The other, Maryland v. King, examined the constitutionality of collecting and storing DNA samples from people arrested - but not yet convicted of felonies.

From one perspective, these two cases involved radically different questions and areas of law: intellectual property and the proper scope of patents, on the one hand, and the constitutionality of certain law-enforcement investigative techniques on the other. But both cases invite critical questions and perplexing ruminations about the relationship between law and the building blocks of our genetic profiles. They both struggle, implicitly or explicitly, over the relationship between DNA and broader aspects of our human identity. And both cases necessarily wrestle with how to assimilate new biotechnological developments to established legal understandings, whether to the scope of patentable subject matter or to criminal identification.

This afternoon symposium brings together experts in patent law, genetic technologies, criminal procedure, evidence, and privacy law, to discuss each of these landmark cases, both separately and in dialogue. Through presentations and roundtable discussion, we will investigate the legal meanings of DNA in both criminal law and intellectual property, and explore likely future directions for the complex nexus of science, biotechnology, law and society.


2:00 – 2:15  Introduction and Welcome

2:20 – 3:25   Maryland v. King Panel

Enid Camps
Elizabeth Joh
Jennifer Mnookin
Richard Leo, Moderator

3:30-4:35  Myriad Genetics Panel

Lori Andrews
Mildred Cho
Lee Pethebridge
Debra Greenfield, Moderator

4:45-5:30 Joint Roundtable on Science, Law, DNA and the Supreme Court

5:30  Reception to Follow