The US Patent and Trademark Office handed out patents on human genes for about 30 years, but genomic patents were blocked after a landmark Supreme Court ruling last year.
The patent holder in that case, Myriad Genetics, had patented a test on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The test shows mutations that reveal which women are more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer. The BRCA test is substantially cheaper in countries where it wasn’t patented, such as Canada.
After losing its case, Myriad didn’t give up. Instead, it quickly filed a new round of lawsuits, trying to keep competitors like Ambry Genetics out of the business of BRCA testing. The new suits named different patents, which instead of simply claiming the gene itself, included “method” claims and also discussed the use of DNA “primers”—an entirely lab-made substance which Myriad lawyers said were still open to being patented.
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