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Patent issues impact breast cancer screenings

Courts strike down DNA-related patents, opening the door for a number of cancer screening tests

Over the summer, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that sent shockwaves through the biotech sector. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that human genes are not patent-eligible. This was a huge blow for Myriad Genetics, which lost a group of patents on genes relating to breast and ovarian cancer. 

This ruling has opened the door for other companies to enter the market for selling genetic screening tests for breast and ovarian cancer. Now that the Myriad monopoly on these types of tests has ended, Quest Diagnostics has decided to sell its own tests, making a move into what has proven to be a lucrative market.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Myriad earned $519.41 million last year selling screenings and related tests. Myriad’s test has a list price of $3,340, while Quest plans to sell its test for quite a bit less: $2,500.

The issue of whether or not human genes were patentable was at the heart of the June Supreme Court ruling. The Court decided that human genes are products of nature and are not eligible to patent.

This has not stopped Myriad from trying to defend its turf in court, however. Earlier this year, it sued Ambry Genetics and Gene by Gene Ltd. for violating patents, seeking an injunction prohibiting those companies from selling their own screening tests.

In a preemptive move, Quest filed a suite in federal court seeking declaratory judgment stating that its own tests would not violate Myriad’s patents.

At the heart of this issue, which fittingly comes to the forefront during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is advocates of cancer screenings hoping to see more tests available in the near future.

 

 

Contributing Author

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Managing Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance arenas. Rich earned a B.A. in English Literature...

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