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To: Multiple recipients of list HUM-MOLGEN <HUM-MOLGEN@NIC.SURFNET.NL>
Subject: ETHI: BRCA2 patenting
From: Hans Goerl <GENETHICS@delphi.com>
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 1995 09:52:21 -0500

As recently reported in Nature, The Salt Lake Tribune and elsewhere, Myriad
Genetics and an international research consortium are likely to be involved
in a dispute over patent rights to the BRCA2 gene. The consortium has
identified a portion of BRCA2 and Myriad claims to have identified and
applied for a patent on the entire gene.

Below are several quotes from the Salt Lake Tribune article about this

Responsible comments, particularly from principals involved in this dispute,
are solicited.

Hans Goerl
ETHI editor

      As word of the study spread worldwide Wednesday, Myriad announced it
filed a U.S. patent application claiming the company found ``a strong
candidate'' for the complete gene. The application ``covers all diagnostic
and therapeutic uses of this newly discovered gene,'' the announcement said.
      ``The real winners are going to be patients and also patent
attorneys,'' said Louis Ptacek, a professor of neurology and human genetics
at the University of Utah. ``The competition is healthy to a certain extent.
But a lot of people get so caught up in who is first that they lose sight of
the ultimate goal, which is helping patients with diseases.''

      ``There could be billions of dollars at stake,'' said Mark Keating, a
professor of human genetics and medicine at the U. ``This [BRCA2 discovery]
is not going to lead immediately to a cure for breast cancer, but it's also
not pie in the sky. The question is how long it's going to take.''

     Myriad's Meldrum said Wednesday that his company should get the patent
for BRCA2 even if Stratton's international team was the first to find a
piece of the gene.

     ``We know exactly where it is located and have the entire gene
sequence, not just a chunk of the gene,'' Meldrum said. ``You cannot patent
gene unless you have the entire gene sequence and can demonstrate . . . the
gene has some useful purpose in a diagnostic or therapeutic setting.''

     Ptacek replied: ``It's crazy to say they [Myriad] have greater
precedence because they have the whole gene. Having part of the gene and
demonstrating disease-causing mutations in that part of the gene is as good
as having the full-length gene.''

     Keating also disputed Meldrum. ``Myriad is wrong in saying just having
part of the gene isn't patentable.'' By now, the international team probably
has found the entire gene, but hasn't yet published that discovery because
of the long lag time until publication in a science journal, Keating said.

     Whether Myriad or the other team gets patent rights to the gene will
depend on who can document they made the discovery first, and publishing a
study as the international team did is ``one way of documenting an
intellectual discovery,'' Ptacek said.

     Citing Myriad's need to protect its intellectual property rights,
Meldrum declined to disclose who at Myriad found the full BRCA2 gene, when
the discovery was made or when the patent application was filed.

     Meldrum said people at Myriad had not seen the Nature paper, but were
contacted by reporters seeking comment. Asked if anyone at Myriad had
advance knowledge of the study, Meldrum replied: ``Without canvassing every
employee in Myriad, I can't answer that question.'' But he denied Myriad
made its announcement in a bid to establish its own claim to BRCA2.

     The company ``would prefer to publish its findings in a scientific
journal'' but, as a publicly traded company, was forced to issue a news
release to inform investors of its own discovery and patent filing, Meldrum

     Keating said Stratton's team won the scientific race to identify BRCA2
by publishing in a journal first. He said Myriad put out a news release ``to
counterbalance that potential loss by getting recognition in the lay press,
which is in some ways more important to them than recognition in the
scientific press.

     ``Myriad Genetics is a company . . . and their mission is to make a
profit No. 1, and do good things No. 2,'' Keating added. ``The academic
mission is to do good things No.1, and if you can make a little money on the
side, that's terrific.''

     He said he is certain Stratton's group also must have filed for a
patent because ``if they haven't they're stupid.''


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