24 September 2017 Register to receive our free newsletter by email each week
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Universities’ revenue drive obscures broader mission

When the Supreme Court ruled that you couldn’t patent human genes, Ambry Genetics began offering women a test for the BRCA genes, which are linked to breast cancer. But last week, Myriad Genetics, the firm that has enjoyed a de facto monopoly on BRCA tests in recent years, sued – in conjunction with two universities – writes Timothy B Lee for The Washington Post.

Myriad argues that despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, it still has patents covering Ambry’s product. Myriad is the lead plaintiff, but two universities also signed on to the lawsuit: the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Utah Research Foundation. The universities own BRCA-related patents, which they have licensed exclusively to Myriad. Why are universities trying to force a potentially life-saving cancer test off the market?

A spokesperson for the University of Pennsylvania declined to comment for this story, and a University of Utah spokesperson didn’t return our call. But the short answer seems to be money. Many universities now have ‘technology transfer’ offices whose job it is to obtain patents based on university research and license them to private industry. These activities generated $1.8 billion in patent licensing revenues in 2011.
Full report on The Washington Post site
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