Updated on 17 June 2013
Myriad argued that its patents are not on the genes as they exist in the human body, but on isolated, modified versions that have been made useful in a laboratory
In the legal case of Myriad Genetics vs Association for Molecular Pathology, the US Supreme Court's verdict unanimously struck down patents on isolated, natural human genes, in June. Patents on synthesized DNA were however held to be valid. Commercially important patents on cDNA (segments of DNA synthesized using an RNA template) too are included in this category. Even as all the sides claimed victory in the case, Myriad's patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene were held invalid.
For the last four years, this case was debating whether human DNA can be claimed as intellectual property, sealing the fate of the life sciences industry in unimaginable ways and that of the treatment of a disease that kills one in every eight affected women across the world. Above all, the lawsuit was being looked upon as the most defining chapter in how the world would take forward human genomic and the progress that can be achieved in breast and ovarian cancer treatment - for better or for worse.
The case of Myriad Genetics vs Association for Molecular Pathology has, in recent times, had become an argument between the former and the world. Even as the US Supreme Court examined various aspects of the case since November last year, all the stakeholders in the case made their perceptions publicly clear.
The long drawn legal battle heard every argument including, turning the ethical spotlight on the issue of patenting, the alleged 'forced monopoly' on testing, the apparent impact patenting was said to be having on scientific research, and even the future of the 100,000 or so genetic patents already awarded.
Some had called Myriad Genetics' BRCA gene patent tangle, a move towards blatant corporatization of breast cancer treatment in the US, while others argued that patenting is a way to pay for the investments made by the company in developing the test.