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Companies get patents on human genes to give them incentive to conduct expensive research into what those genes can reveal about an individual's chances of contracting disease. But is that patenting life itself? We hear about today's arguments at The US Supreme Court in a case that could determine the future of "personalized medicine." Also, a narrow victory for Venezuela's new president. On Reporters Notebook, why can't the IRS just send income-tax payers a bill?

Banner image of human genome by Webridge


BREAKING NEWS: Warren Olney speaks with David Abel of the Boston Globe about twin explosions that rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon.



Making News A Narrow Victory for Venezuela's New President 7 MIN, 37 SEC

The late Hugo Chavez hand-picked his successor as President of Venezuela, but after a brief but hard-hitting campaign, interim president Nicolás Maduro won with only 50.7 percent in yesterday's voting. His opponent, provincial Governor Henrique Capriles, has called for a recount. Chris Kraul special correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, joins us from Caracas.

Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times (@chriskraul)

Main Topic Genetic Breakthroughs: Patents and Profits 34 MIN, 49 SEC

Mapping the human genome began "the biological gold rush of the 21st Century," with companies now owning patents on 4000 human genes. Today, the US Supreme Court is being asked to strike down two patents on BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, genes that helped doctors discover both breast and ovarian cancer. Nobody can do that without paying Myriad Genetics, which isolated the genes. But opponents argue the genes are "products of Nature." We hear about a case with long-term implications for the future of "personalized medicine" designed to serve the needs of each individual patient.

Tom Taylor, US Law Week (@Tom_PTaylor)
Ellen Matloff, Yale Cancer Center
Dan Burk, University of California, Irvine (@UCILaw)
David Kroll, pharmacologist, and freelance science and medicine writer (@DavidKroll)

Reporter's Notebook Americans Spent 225 Million Hours on Tax Preparation 8 MIN, 20 SEC

The IRS already collects most of the information from employers and banks that you've just used to fill out your income-tax form. Why couldn't it send you a pre-filled return, let you make needed changes and send it back in? President Obama's former economic advisor, Austin Goolsby, says "return-free filing" of income taxes could save a collected $2 billion and 225 million hours of time filling out income tax forms. Will it ever happen? Not likely, according to a report co-produced by NPR and ProPublica, where Liz Day is director of research.

Liz Day, ProPublica (@LizDDay)

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