The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered an appeals court to reconsider its decision to grant patents to Myriad Genetics Inc for two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was told to take another look at the case, due to the Supreme Court's ruling last week that a diagnostic test is not eligible for patents because it is a simple application of a law of nature.
Myriad, along with the University of Utah, is the first to isolate the two genes in question, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. It has also developed a test that examines extracted DNA from the genes for signs of mutations that indicates a woman is at a high risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer. The patent on the genes would prevent other companies from developing similar tests.
The appeals court, specializing in patent cases, ruled by a 2-1 vote that the genes isolated by the company can be patented because Myriad was testing for distinctive chemical forms of the genes, and not as they appear naturally in the body.
The appeals court overturned a ruling by a federal judge in New York that the genes cannot be patented, a decision that caused widespread concerns for the biotechnology industry. It said such patents are essential to foster innovation.