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Myriad Appeals Decision Invalidating BRCA Patents

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Myriad Genetics yesterday appealed a decision by a federal court rendered in March that invalidated the company's BRCA gene patents.

The appeal was filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York by Myriad and the University of Utah Research Foundation.

In March, Judge Robert Sweet of that US District Court sided with plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in May 2009 which alleged that the BRCA genes that Myriad licensed exclusively from the University of Utah Research Foundation "stifle research that could lead to cures and limit women's options regarding their medical care."

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation on behalf of several scientific organizations and women's health groups.

In his decision, Sweet said that the case hinged on the fact that Myriad's patents protect "isolated DNA." While the premise was that DNA should be treated like any other chemical compound "and that its purification from the body, using well-known techniques, renders it patentable by transforming it into something distinctly different in character," Sweet said that DNA is "distinct in its essential characteristics from any other chemical found in nature [and its] existence in an 'isolated' form alters neither this fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes."

Therefore, he concluded, "the patents at issue directed to 'isolated DNA' containing sequences found in nature are deemed unpatentable subject matter."

Since Sweet's decision, shares of Myriad's stock have dropped 33 percent from $25.13 on the close of the business day on March 26, the day before Sweet's decision was announced, to $16.81 in early afternoon trading today.

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