Masur Argues Myriad Ruling Will Be Positive for Many Biotech Firms

A Supreme Court loss on human gene patents is just what Myriad—and the biotech industry—need

The US Supreme Court today ruled that Myriad, the US biotech company that holds a monopoly on testing for a set of breast-cancer related genes, can’t hold a patent on genetic material. But after the news broke, Myriad’s stock shot up...

Even with the genes themselves freed up for use by other companies, it could take years for other testing options to hit the market. That’s partly because of the work involved to create related cDNA. And meanwhile Myriad still has its cDNA patents protected until 2015. Jonathan Masur, professor of law at the University of Chicago, argued last week in The New York Times that such a ruling would be the best of both worlds. Masur in an interview with Quartz today said the decision balances between providing an incentive for Myriad and other companies to continue innovating and protecting the consumer and was “the best this court could have done.”

And for most biotech companies, it’s a positive ruling.

“It’s going to affect lots of biotech companies in different ways,” Masur says. “Let’s take Monsanto for an example: They work with lots of plant DNA, but their business isn’t selling strains of that DNA. It’s combining it to sell better seeds. So for Monsanto, this is a good decision—they can still patent what they’re selling, but now no one can come in and patent the basic building blocks of the plants they’re working with.” The same is true, he says, for companies including Pfizer and Merck.