The Supreme Court’s Gene Patent Ruling Is Already Leading To Cheaper Cancer Tests

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"The Supreme Court’s Gene Patent Ruling Is Already Leading To Cheaper Cancer Tests"

(Credit: Ambry Genetics)

Myriad Genetics, the biotech company whose patents on naturally-occurring human genes were invalidated on Thursday by the Supreme Court, saw its public stock tumble as competitors announced that they would be offering cheaper alternatives to Myriad’s BRCAnalysis cancer test.

While Myriad’s stock initially rose as investors took comfort in the Supreme Court’s concurrent ruling that companies could still patent synthetic or man-made DNA, it quickly fell back down to earth as competitors announced their intentions to make cheaper cancer tests:

Women who have mutations on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are at significantly higher lifetime risk for developing breast and ovarian cancers. Since Myriad had a patent on those genes for the last 17 years, the company held a complete monopoly on the genetic testing market for the cancers. Myriad’s so-called BRCAnalysis runs anywhere from $500 for the simplest gene analysis to $4000 for the most extensive ones.

Those prices prove prohibitively expensive for many women, since there are significant insurance coverage gaps for genetic testing. But the Supreme Court’s decision allows companies other than Myriad to enter the marketplace and lower prices — and just hours after the ruling, several had already announced their intention to do so.

Modern Healthcare reports that Ambry Genetics blasted out an email to genetic counselors across the United States in which they promised a far cheaper BRCA test. The company says that its most expensive and detailed BRCA analysis will only cost $2200 — about half of what Myriad charges.

Other biotech firms such as Quest Diagnostics and GeneDx also said they would be getting into the cancer testing business as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision. While those companies haven’t announced their rates, industry observers expect prices to be lower than Myriad’s BRCAnalysis.

“For genetic counselors, the thought of patenting some type of human molecule just goes against common sense to us … We saw the effects on patients, where the costs of most genetic tests have fallen in recent years, but this test increased in cost,” said Rebecca Nagy, president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, in an interview with Modern Healthcare.

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