Gene Patents Struck Down

Currently, the only testing widely used to see if a man or woman harbors a genetic mutation in the BRCA gene is conducted by Myriad Genetics.

Currently, the only testing widely used to see if a man or woman harbors a genetic mutation in the BRCA gene is conducted by Myriad Genetics. Myriad has held a patent in the testing for BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations, which if found increases the risk for breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers. For a long time, Myriad held the technology used to identify the gene sequences that was defined the presence or absence of a mutation, which was the reason for the patent. However, because it involves "products of nature," in this case, DNA, which comprise genes, Myriad was sued because the patents blocked access to genetic testing for patients interested in obtaining a second opinion about the status of their own BRCA gene mutations. This is an important decision for patients at risk or with cancer, who may now have access to alternative systems to check for these mutations, which one day may prove to be more sensitive than the current testing affords. If anything else, it may introduce market forces in to play, which in the end, may reduce the cost of the testing itself.

For further information, please see the article by Schwartz and Pollack for the New York Times at this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/business/30gene.html?src=me.