Gene patent case sent back to lower court

March 27, 2012 at 1:28 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule in a case testing a company's right to patent genes, sending the matter back to an appeals court.

The Supreme Court Monday directed the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to reconsider its decision in favor of Myriad Genetics, allowing the company to secure patents for two genes whose presence suggest a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer, The New York Times reported. The decision came one week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a diagnostic test that reflects a simple act of nature cannot be patented, the newspaper said.

Myriad Genetics, working with researchers at the University of Utah, isolated the two genes at issue in the case and developed a test that analyzes DNA extracted from the genes for indications of high risk of breast or ovarian cancer. It patented the genes, so other companies would be unable to develop similar tests.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation challenged the patent on behalf of clients including medical groups, patients and researchers. The suit argued that allowing Myriad a monopoly on testing for mutations in the genes at issue would result in higher medical costs and make it impossible for women to get a second opinion in medical matters involving the genes.

A U.S. District judge in New York initially sided with the plaintiffs and invalidated the patents in 2010 but the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which specializes in patent cases, reversed the lower court ruling in 2011.

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