Ambry Claims Myriad Is Monopolizing Breast Cancer Market

Ambry Genetics Corp., a seller of tests for genetic risks of breast cancer, accused Myriad Genetics Inc. of misusing its patents to “intimidate and chill competition” in the market.

Myriad sued Ambry and another closely held company, Houston-based Gene By Gene Ltd., in July, claiming their tests infringe its patents for the testing process and synthesized DNA. The tests look at genes known as BRCA to determine if there is a hereditary risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers.

Myriad, based in Salt Lake City, filed the suits after the companies began offering competing tests hours after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated some of Myriad’s patents on genes linked to the diseases. Richard Marsh, Myriad’s general counsel, said Ambry and Gene by Gene were using the company’s patented processes.

“Myriad continues a practice of using sharp and overreaching practices to wrongfully monopolize the diagnostic testing of human BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in the United States and to attempt to injure any competitor who dares to challenge Myriad’s monopoly,” Aliso Viejo, California-based Ambry said in a counterclaim filed yesterday.

Threatening Letters

Ambry said Myriad is sending threatening letters to doctors with false allegations meant to confuse genetic counselors. The antitrust contentions, which are only against Myriad and not the other patent owners, were part of a filing in which Ambry responded to the Myriad claims.

Ambry said the patents are invalid, based on the high court’s ruling in the Myriad case and a March 2012 decision involving diagnostic tests.

The patent claims asserted in the lawsuits were not those invalidated by the high court.

“The BRCA patent owners will demonstrate that the testing process employed by Ambry infringes 10 patents covering synthetic primers, probes and arrays, as well as methods of testing, related to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes,” Myriad spokesman Ron Rogers said. “We believe we have a strong case based on the evidence and that Ambry’s counterclaims are without merit.”

Myriad denies that its tests are unreasonably expensive, saying the average cost to patients is less than $100. Many patients will be able to get them for free once provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act take effect.

In addition to Myriad, the other owners of the patents -- the University of Utah, the University of Pennsylvania, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Endorecherche Inc. -- also joined in the suits against Ambry and Gene by Gene.

The Ambry case is University of Utah Research Foundation v. Ambry Genetics, 13cv640, The Gene By Gene case is University of Utah Research Foundation v. Gene By Gene LTD., 13cv643, both U.S. District Court for the District of Utah (Salt Lake City).

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