Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Myriad Genetics' monopoly on testing for two breast cancer genes, the company's stock went tumbling as competitors announced plans to offer the same services at lower prices.
Above a photo of the Supreme Court building, the Ambry Genetics home page boldly announced “Your Genes Have Been Freed.” The company also e-mailed genetic counselors nationwide to begin offering testing for mutations in the cancer-linked genes BRCA1 and BRCA2—tests that would have been illegal until last week because of Myriad's 1996 patent on the human genes.
Similar genetic testing for the genes was announced by laboratory giant Quest Diagnostics, while GeneDx announced it would start including the genes in its broad-spectrum “panel” testing for a variety of cancer-causing genes.
“I think the cost will drop,” said Rebecca Nagy, president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors in Chicago. “For genetic counselors, the thought of patenting some type of human molecule just goes against common sense to us.”
While other genetic tests have gotten less expensive, she said, the price of Myriad's BRACAnalysis went up.
In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court decided that companies cannot patent human DNA because the strands of nucleotides that encode the biological instructions for life are naturally occurring phenomena.
“It is a discovery, not an invention. And discoveries are not patentable,” said Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, a San Francisco-based advocacy group that was among numerous organizations that sued Myriad to overturn the gene patents. “The end of Myriad's monopoly means more women will have access to genetic testing.”