NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Shares of Myriad Genetics fell around 5 percent in Tuesday trade following yesterday's ruling by a federal District Court that declared Myriad's BRCA gene patents invalid.
The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed last May by the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation on behalf of several scientific organizations and women's health groups, charged that the BRCA gene patents held by the University of Utah Research Foundation and exclusively licensed to Myriad "stifle research that could lead to cures and limit women's options regarding their medical care."
In the ruling, Judge Robert Sweet of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York noted that the case hinged on the fact that the patents protect "isolated DNA," which is "premised on the view that DNA should be treated no differently from 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."
However, Sweet noted that because "DNA represents the physical embodiment of biological information, distinct in its essential characteristics from any other chemical found in nature … [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."
Following the court's decision, Myriad issued a statement saying that it intended to appeal the ruling. In addition, Myriad Genetics President and CEO Peter Meldrum said in a statement that the firm believes that the outcome of the litigation will not have a material impact on its operations "due to the patent protection afforded Myriad by its remaining patents."
In Tuesday afternoon trade on the Nasdaq, shares of Myriad were down 5 percent at $23.66. The stock had fallen to as low as $23.07 earlier in the day.