Thursday, June 13, 2013

BRCA Freed from Myriad's Patents, Supreme Court Rules

The Supreme Court in a 9-0 ruling invalidated Myriad's patents on BRCA opening up the field for cheaper testing for the breast cancer risk genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Myriad was criticized for selling $3000 tests and blocking mon-n-pop University labs to run similar tests at fraction of the cost.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times breaking the story wrote:

The central question for the justices in the case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, No. 12-398, was whether isolated genes are “products of nature” that may not be patented or “human-made inventions” eligible for patent protection.
Myriad’s discovery of the precise location and sequence of the genes at issue, BRCA1 and BRCA2, did not qualify, Justice Thomas wrote. “A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated,” he said. “It is undisputed that Myriad did not create or alter any of the genetic information encoded in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.”
“Groundbreaking, innovative or even brilliant discovery does not by itself satisfy the criteria” for patent eligibility, he said.

With BRCA freed from Myriad's stronghold, many companies and university labs are promising the BRCA breast cancer tests at one-third the cost. Robert Langreth & Shannon Pettypiece writing for Bloomberg lists several companies and organizations who are ready to jump in including University of Washington, Ambry Genetics based in Aliso Viejo, California, Quest Diagnostics Inc. (DGX) and Gene By Gene Ltd., based in Houston.

A copy of the Supreme Court ruling 12-398 is available here.

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