Gene By Gene joins Ambry to fight Myriad's Dx 'monopoly'

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Gene By Gene has followed former rival Ambry Genetics into a countersuit against Myriad Genetics ($MYGN), saying the cancer test magnate's patent claims are bogus and accusing it of monopolizing the BRCA market.

Like Ambry, the Houston company launched BRCA tests of its own after the Supreme Court nullified 5 of Myriad's patents on isolated genes, and, like Ambry, it was summarily sued by Myriad on claims of patent infringement.

This month, Ambry fired back with a lawsuit of its own, accusing Myriad of using a misguided understanding of the law to monopolize the world of BRCA testing, and now Gene By Gene is joining that effort, lending its weight to the lawsuit and claiming Myriad has violated the Federal Antitrust Act.

"The Supreme Court was very clear that gene sequences, even when isolated, cannot be patented," Gene By Gene President Bennett Greenspan said in a statement. "We look forward to a swift resolution of this litigation to level the playing field for test providers, and to enable greater numbers of people to benefit from the genomics revolution."

The company has no intention of taking its BRCA tests off the market, Greenspan said, echoing Ambry CEO Charles Dunlop in his pledge to fight the much larger Myriad in the name of patients around the country.

For its part, Myriad has said the monopoly accusations are without merit and that it looks forward to making its case in court.

In its initial suit, Myriad and four other intellectual property owners claimed Gene By Gene violated 9 patents related to how BRCA1 and BRCA2 are analyzed, not the genes themselves. The company wants a jury trial in which it would seek monetary compensation and an injunction on Gene By Gene's offending tests. The suit against Ambry is pretty much identical.

That courtroom drama amounts to illegal anticompetitive conduct, Ambry alleges in its countersuit, saying Myriad's claims are plainly invalid and clearly designed to further its monopoly.

The case has stirred intrigue beyond the life sciences world, as the results of the mounting fight could have spillover effects into intellectual property law at large. The Supreme Court has very clearly stripped Myriad of its patents on the actual BRCA gene, but, if the company can legally patent the process of isolating and analyzing the genes and halt competitors from offering tests of their own, what's the difference?

- read Gene By Gene's announcement

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