Myriad loses BRCA1 patent appeal

22 October 2007

The European Patent Office (EPO) has rejected an appeal by US company Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah, and upheld an earlier decision  to revoke some claims of patent EP705902 relating to the BRCA1 gene and its applications (see press release). Myriad was originally granted the patent in 2001, later transferring it to the University of Utah Research Foundation whilst retaining exclusive licensing rights; the patent claims the isolated BRCA1 gene, the BRCA1 protein, and possible therapeutic applications and diagnostic kits based on the gene.

There was widespread objection to the extent of this claim among European researchers, since it granted an effective monopoly to Myriad which they believed unjustified; six bodies filed objections, leading to a decision by the EPO in 2005 to substantially amend the patent, retaining only the claims relating to a specific nucleic acid probe and vectors containing gene sequences. The EPO has now rejected an appeal by Myriad and the University of Utah, and amended the patent, meaning that European laboratories retain the right to perform diagnostic tests for mutations in the BRCA1 gene sequence, which are associated with increased susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer.

The EPO has yet to examine the appeals made by Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah against decisions to revoke patent EP699754 in 2004 (see previous news) and amend EP705903 in 2005 (see previous news); both of these patents also relate to the BRCA1 gene.