The latest ruling, delivered on 29 March, is the result of a lawsuit brought in May 2009 against Myriad Genetics, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the University of Utah Research Foundation, which hold the patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Mutations on BRCA1 and BRCA2 are responsible for most hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. A woman who tests positive on Myriad’s BRCA test has on average an 82% risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime and a 44% risk of developing ovarian cancer, according to the company.
The patents, which Myriad has actively enforced, grant the company the exclusive right to perform diagnostic tests on the two genes. The company charges over $3,000 for its BRACAnalysis test. In 2009, Myriad’s revenues from molecular diagnostics grew by 47% to $326.5 million. BRACAnalysis accounts for the lion’s share of those revenues.
The plaintiffs in the case included individual physicians and patients as well as the Association for Molecular Pathology and the American College of Medical Genetics; they were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the New York–based Public Patent Foundation. The American Society of Human Genetics and the American Medical Association also filed briefs in support of the plaintiffs’ challenge to the patents.
The plaintiffs called the patents illegal on the basis that they restrict both scientific research and patients’ access to medical care and that patents on human genes violate patent law because genes are “products of nature”.
Complete article http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100330/full/news.2010.160.html