2 Nov 2015

Profit Hungry Companies Can Be Bested

Green Groups fighting to save our environment are often up against large corporations.  I came across a David and Goliath story today which I thought would spur on all those battling against the odds.

In June 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that naturally occurring DNA is not patentable. However, this has not stopped companies using legal threats to stop competitors from offering cheaper drugs or treatments or doing research in areas where they have been making mega-bucks.

US-based biotech Myriad Genetics is one such company. For many years it had a monopoly on testing for human BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes which are a good indicator of cancer risk. According to Breast Cancer Action in the US 'With nearly $9 million in monthly revenue from BRCA testing, anything to prolong their monopoly by even a few months is money well spent for Myriad.' Their poster below is ironic in the extreme.

In January 2015 it was reported that Myriad had finally stopped their quest to retain their monopoly on the BRCA genes. Myriad announced they’re settling or will settle with other companies offering genetic testing for BRCA mutations.

Meanwhile in Australia Yvonne D’Arcy took Myriad Genetics to court over its patent of the BRCA1 gene linked to breast and ovarian cancer. Amazingly she has just had Australia’s highest court rule that 'an isolated nucleic acid, coding for a BRCA1 protein, with specific variations from the norm that are indicative of susceptibility to breast cancer and ovarian cancer was not a “patentable invention”.'
Yvonne said: “I’m only a little person – but it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” She said until the decision few people could afford testing “except for Angelina Jolie”, but the cost should now come down. “For all those people who do have the genetic footprint, it’s a win for them, because now they’re forewarned and forearmed.”

Funnily enough this recent development does not appear on the Myriad website  Instead we are offered sound bites like:
At Myriad, we’re leveraging our unique expertise in sequencing and analysis to better understand human disease. (unique expertise as they were threatening everone else with lawsuits)
At Myriad, our passion for patients drives everything we do – on the job and in the community.
For more infomation see:
The Guardian
Breast Cancer Action

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