Diagnostic group predicts biotech doom with loss of gene patents

A federal case over who can patent and own genetic material could influence the future of the biotech industry, according to the diagnostic test maker at the center of the legal scrap. 

Myriad Genetics has squared off against an alliance of advocacy groups who have challenged the diagnostic company's patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, mutations linked to a significantly higher risk of breast cancer. The plaintiffs--a coalition of women's health and research groups--say that the patents block needed innovation by barring other researchers from the genes.

But Myriad Genetics say the patents are vital for the company to profit from the diagnostic tests used to probe for the mutations. And without the patents, the intellectual property rights at the foundation of commercial biotechnology will disappear.

BIO and a group of top-tier biotech companies, meanwhile, are fighting against a proposed policy shift that restricts the ability of companies to patent human genes.

"It is not the time to undertake or recommend policy changes that would undermine the foundations of American life science innovation," said the letter, which was dispatched by BIO and a slate of companies including Genzyme, Human Genome Sciences and Monsanto.

- check out the report from Wired
- here's the story from Bloomberg