Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Myriad sues companies selling cheaper genetic breast cancer tests

Supreme Court ruled Myriad Genetics can’t patent human genes, but the company says other patents are being violated.

First Published Jul 10 2013 11:29 am • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:35 pm

Myriad Genetics Inc. is suing two competitors who rolled out cheaper genetic breast cancer tests the same day the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Salt Lake City-based company’s patents on human genes.

Myriad claims Ambry Genetics and Gene by Gene are violating up to 10 patents related to its signature test, which detects hereditary mutations on the tumor-blocking genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Myriad is asking two federal judges to stop the companies from selling their tests. Both suits ask for jury trials.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Though the Supreme Court last month declared that companies can’t patent genomic DNA, it allowed patents on genes created in the lab, or cDNA, to stand. Myriad argues "the patents at issue in this case are very different than those in the Supreme Court case," spokesman Ron Rogers said, because they deal with methods or are based on synthetic DNA.

Its competitors disagree. Elizabeth Chao, Ambry’s chief medical officer, said that company’s testing is based on human DNA and those patents are void.

"We don’t work with cDNA," she said. "We always knew it was a risk, but we had consulted solid legal counsel ... [who said] we were not in fact violating any of the remaining patents when we chose to go public with this."

For more than a decade, Myriad has been the only company offering the test, which cost about $3,000, though much of that cost is often covered by insurance. It drew headlines in May when actress Angelina Jolie announced she had a proactive double mastectomy after the test found she carried a mutation.

Myriad attorneys say the company has invested more than $500 million to develop the test, and claim that since the introduction of the competing tests, it "has suffered and will continue to suffer substantial damage to its business."

After the Supreme Court ruling, the two genetic testing companies announced they would offer similar tests to patients for at least $1,000 less than Myriad. Chao said Ambry, based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., began receiving samples from customers the day after the ruling was announced.

DNATraits is a division of Houston-based Gene By Gene Ltd. In a statement after the ruling, company president Bennett Greenspan said it is critical to allow healthy competition to drive down the costs of the tests. Rogers disagreed, citing "economy of scale" and pointing to other markets with more competition where prices are higher.

The Ambry case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby and the Gene by Gene case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Evelyn Furse. No hearings have been scheduled. Along with Myriad, the University of Utah Research Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania, HSC Research and Development and Endorecherche are also plaintiffs.

story continues below
story continues below


Twitter: @lwhitehurst

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.