Myriad Genetics Win on Gene Patent Ownership Is Appealed

Myriad Genetics Inc.’s Australian court victory recognizing its ownership of patents for genes linked to cancer risks will be appealed by a group representing cancer patients, a law firm said.

Cancer Voices Australia and Yvonne D’Arcy, a Brisbane resident diagnosed with breast cancer, sued in 2010 to stop Myriad and Genetic Technologies Ltd. from patenting an isolated DNA associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers, according to Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. The firm said it has filed the appeal in the Federal Court of Australia today.

“We intend to continue the challenge to the monopoly created by the patent held by Myriad,” Rebecca Gilsenan, a lawyer at Melbourne-based Maurice Blackburn, said in an e-mailed statement.

The issue has divided the global medical community, with groups including the Association for Molecular Pathology and the American College of Medical Genetics arguing that Myriad is trying to get legal ownership of parts of the human body. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which specializes in patent law, has twice ruled that genes can be patented.

The Myriad case returns to the U.S. Supreme Court this year after the U.S. high court agreed Nov. 30 to hear the Association for Molecular Pathology’s appeal.

Australian Federal Court Justice John Nicholas ruled Feb. 15 that the method used by Myriad and Genetic Technologies of purging a gene of biological material is a manufacturing process that can be patented.

Some scientists argue they have been stymied in researching new medicines and treatments because they may come up against demands for royalties or letters demanding they stop using patented inventions. Companies such as Genomic Health Inc. have argued they can’t attract investment dollars if they can’t protect their research from competitors.

“I won’t give up the fight,” D’Arcy said in today’s statement. “We need to continue for future generations of people who at some point in their life, may need treatment for cancer and other diseases.”

The case is: Cancer Voices Australia v. Myriad Genetics. NSD643/2010. Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).