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June 20, 2013

NY Times Op-Ed Explores Fallout from Supreme Court Genetics Case

On June 18, 2103, Eleonore Pauwels wrote a piece for the Opinion page of the New York Times, looking at the fallout from the Supreme Court case Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics. Pauwels argues that, while Myriad is a step in the right direction, much remains to be done to develop a fair-and-balanced approach to intellectual property and the growing field of personalized medicine. She writes:

Even before last week’s Supreme Court decision, the importance of gene-related trade secrets, compared with that of outright patents, was clear. Myriad had already announced that it would begin, this fall, to replace its BRCA test with one that examines multiple genes implicated in hereditary cancers — most of which were outside the scope of its gene patents before Thursday’s ruling. The new test, likewise, is expected to use complex proprietary algorithms, developed from its prodigious patient data, and therefore be largely protected from competition.

If anything, the court’s decision may prompt biotech companies to rely even more heavily on that strategy than they do now — an unintended consequence that could stall research in many critical areas. Those with established beachheads on a gene-related disease or condition will be able to deter competition, much as they did before last Thursday’s gene-patent ruling.

In the end, it will be patients and the public who pay.

The full editorial can be found here.