GENE PATENTING: Myriad of Lawsuits
Companies looking to patent human genes won a mixed verdict from the U.S. Supreme Court in June, when the justices unanimously ruling that Myriad Genetics’ claims for seven patents related to breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA 1 and 2—but also holding that companies can patent composite DNA (cDNA) and other synthetic genetic material that does not meet the “Product of nature” exemption from patentability.
While some experts predicted a rush of competition leading to plunging prices for genetic tests, Myriad refused to roll over, instead vigorously defending its remaining 17 BRCA patents by suing, one-by-one, several of its rivals on infringement grounds: Ambry, Gene by Gene, Gene Dx, Quest Diagnostics, Invitae, and most recently, Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp). “It seems that the Supreme Court’s decision has really spurred Myriad to defend its perceived IP as much as possible against these companies,” much as Amgen successfully held off rivals for its erythropoetin products a decade ago, noted George Yu, an attorney with the law firm Schiff Hardin, told GEN.
“There isn’t a case that comes to mind for diagnostics, and maybe that’s somewhat due to the ability to diagnose conditions and diseases in certain ways. It would seem you would need some portion of the BRCA gene to diagnose susceptibility to breast cancer due to your BRCA genotype,” Yu added.
Myriad also rolled out new tests. In September, the company launched its myRisk Hereditary Cancer™ test, a 25-gene panel covering eight major cancers (breast, colorectal, endometrial, gastric, melanoma, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate) at an average selling price of $3,700. In October the company introduced myPlan™ Lung Cancer, which carries a $3,400 list price; followed in November by myPath™ Melanoma, which has an average selling price of $1,500. By 2015, Myriad has said, it expects to discontinue several current tests, including the BRACAnalysis test at the center of the Supreme Court case.