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Myriad settles gene patent lawsuit against Texas firm

Published February 7, 2014 11:32 am

Litigation • Other battles remain as competitors try to get into testing market.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics has settled one of a number of lawsuits over gene-related patents it filed against competitors who sprang up after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated parts of those patents.

Myriad Genetics said Friday it had reached a settlement with Houston-based Gene by Gene Ltd., but Myriad vowed to continue legal battles against other competitors trying to jump into the market.

As part of the settlement, Gene by Gene will stop selling or marketing tests in the United States for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, mutations of which can signal a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

But Gene by Gene will be able to continue to offer those tests outside the U.S., as well as selling worldwide products and services linked to the whole genome and portions called exomes that include BRCA tests.

The settlement "is in the best interest of the parties because it ends the uncertainty and expense of ongoing litigation," Myriad spokesman Ron Rogers said in a statement. "Additionally, this deal clears the way for GbG to conduct whole genome and exome testing that will facilitate scientific research and progress."

The agreement is to last until Feb. 12, 2016 or the last expiration of Myriad's BRCA patents, whichever comes first.

The Supreme Court invalidated portions of the Myriad's BRCA patents in June of last year, saying products of nature, such as genes, are not eligible for patent protection even when they are isolated from where they naturally occur in the body.

Several companies immediately said they would enter the BRCA testing market. Myriad sued several and itself was sued over efforts to enforce its remaining patent claims.

At least five suits remain pending before U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby in Salt Lake City.

Charles Dunlop, chief executive of Ambry Genetics, one of the companies involved in the litigation, said his company intended to continue the fight to be able to provide patients an alternative to Myriad.

"We will continue with the litigation and remain confident in the outcome so that Ambry may continue to offer patients a choice in their testing options," he said in an email.

Myriad also intends to continue to try to enforce its patents in those cases, Rogers said.

"Today's announcement does not include the other patent cases that are pending," he said. "Myriad and the other owners of the BRCA patents at issue — including the University of Utah, the Hospital for Sick Children, Endorecherche, Inc., and the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania — continue to believe that patent claims related to BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene testing are valid and enforceable and we are prepared to defend our legal rights in those cases."