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Judge rules gene patents invalid

NEW YORK, March 30 (UPI) -- Utah-based Myriad Genetics Inc. said it would appeal a judge's ruling invalidating its patents on gene sequences linked to breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

"We're confident the court of appeals will reverse this decision and uphold the patent claims," Peter Meldrum, president and chief executive officer of Myriad, told The Salt Lake Tribune.

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But Meldrum said he did not expect a significant impact on the company's operations or earnings.

The company's stock fell 4.82 percent a share Tuesday, the day after the ruling, closing at $23.70.

Meldrum said the New York U.S. District Court judge's ruling will have an impact on seven of Myriad's 23 patents and 15 of 179 areas covered by the company's patents.

He predicted the ruling, if it stands on appeal, could have far-reaching implications on the biotechnology industry, especially for start-up companies that need patent protections to attract investment for research and development.

"If the federal circuit court upholds this decision it, unfortunately I think, would be very bad for the biotech industry," Meldrum said.

The judge ruled in a legal challenge to the patents by the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Patent Foundation, researchers and several women with breast or ovarian cancer.

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"The court correctly saw that companies should not be able to own the rights to a piece of the human genome," Daniel B. Ravicher, executive director of the foundation, said in a statement. "No one invented genes. Inventions are specific tests or drugs, which can be patented, but genes are not inventions."

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