While patents are necessary to promote innovation and openness, they should "not hinder research or its translation to the clinic for patients' benefit," particularly with regard to gene patents, says a Nature Methods editorial. Though, the editorial notes, it is not clear whether Myriad Genetics' patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes extend to technologies that don't rely on isolating DNA, like next-generation sequencing, "in practice, it appears that Myriad's claims on the BRCA genes reach far beyond an amplified DNA sequence."
In a related blog post at Methagora, Nicole Rusk adds that "no company in the US seems to be willing to take that risk," adding that Ambry Genetics' next-gen sequencing-based breast cancer test avoids looking at the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. But, she notes, that is not the case in the UK where Myriad has more restricted patents. There, NewGene will sequence the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
"With personalized medicine on the rise and many people interested in having their genome sequenced restricting who can look at a particular gene makes little sense and the much coveted $1000 genome will hopefully not be rendered ineffective by patent laws," Rusk adds.