Sunday, April 4, 2010

Myriad Genetics – A Sign of the Future?

I’m going to step away from my recent blogs about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act because I think time is needed to see what happens next and there is so much else to blog about in life sciences these days. And, thanks to Federal judge Robert Sweet of the U.S. Circuit Court in New York City, I’ve got a great topic for this blog.

You may have heard about this one already. Seems that Judge Sweet threw out the practice of patenting human genes by invalidating patents held by Myriad Genetics (MYGN) relating to breast and ovarian cancer. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Medical Association (AMA), the March of Dimes, and a slew of other interested parties got together and ganged up on Myriad. Talk about having a bad day. Obamacare’s passing probably didn’t make the mood at Myriad’s headquarters any better. (See Scott Canon’s article at The Kansas City Star for a very comprehensive summary .) While I may be over-dramatizing a bit here, I suspect that the emotional issue of access to affordable women’s health care probably contributed to Myriad’s misfortunes. Also, Myriad’s lack of a legal war chest as compared to more deep pocketed bio-tech players probably didn’t hurt either.

Given the American Idol winner-take-all nature of the U.S. legal system, we’re far from a final verdict here until we finish with the U.S. Supreme Court. (Listen to or read the interview between National Public Radio’s (NPR) Ira Flatow and Dr. Robert Cook-Deegan for more information on this aspect of the story .) Until then, there will be uncertainty in the bio-tech industry. For about two decades, there has been an assumption that human genes could be patented just like any other good idea. The little exception about naturally occurring substances didn’t seem to bother anyone except those dismissed as marginal extremists or socialists.

Well, guess what? Looks like the extremists and socialists weren’t so marginal after all. What we may be seeing here is a fundamental shift in how this country views, not all only healthcare, but fundamental research and science as well. Maybe the recent financial meltdown which many view as the result of greedy investment bankers on Wall Street has caused people to be doubtful of free market solutions for important matters like healthcare and who owns intellectual property like the human genome. I’d like to point out how in the final push for the passage of healthcare reform, supporters took aim on healthcare insurers. Rather effectively, too, I might add.

As for Myriad, check out Adam Feuerstein’s blog on ( ) for a financial overview of the company and its market value. This will be a company and a topic that we’ll becoming back to a lot in the future.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Please contact us at We look forward to hearing from you.

Contributed by Guy de Lastin

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