Company Appeals Genetic Patent Ruling

SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 25 (UPI) — A Salt Lake City company says it is appealing a U.S. District Court ruling invalidating its patents on naturally occurring genes.

In March, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet in New York ruled that parts of seven patents held by Myriad Genetics that concern two human genes related to breast and ovarian cancer are invalid because the genes are products of nature and thus not eligible for protection under U.S. patent laws, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday.

Myriad argues the ruling in the suit brought by 20 researchers, organizations and cancer victims “imperils the entire biotechnology industry — molecular diagnostics, therapeutic drugs, agricultural applications, animal husbandry, etc.”

Those bringing the lawsuit say the patents have stifled research and limited the number of tests and treatments available for women at risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

In 1994 and 1995 Myriad were granted patents for the so-called BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (BRCA stands for breast cancer), then developed diagnostic tests that identify mutations that make women more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer and aggressively marketed its products.

Myriad says the material and methods that were patented are substantially different than those found in the body.

Sweet ruled the existence of an isolated form of DNA — or genes — like that claimed by Myriad does not alter the fundamental quality of the material as it exists in the body nor the genetic information it encodes.

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