Study: Gene Licenses Slow New Cancer Tests

DURHAM, N.C., April 14 (UPI) — Duke University scientists say gene patents have dampened the development of technologies to determine patient risk for diseases such as breast cancer.

A study released Wednesday in the journal Genetics in Medicine concluded that the exclusive licenses granted for such U.S. patents often discourage competition in the development of new tests, slowing progress in both technology and business models.


The Duke team used case studies in the testing of risk for breast cancer and nine other ailments. They found that in seven conditions, the license holder was not the first company to bring a test to market.

“That finding suggests that while exclusive licenses have proven valuable for developing drugs and biologics that might not otherwise be developed, in the world of gene testing they are mainly a tool for clearing the field of competition,” Robert Cook-Deegan, director for the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, said in a written statement.

Cook-Deegan said gene patents, often held by universities, can be overly broad and licensed to single companies. The result, the study said, was the inability of outside researchers to develop alternative tests that may be better or tests that look for multiple genetic conditions.

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