Judge: Isolated DNA can’t be patented

NEW YORK — A judge struck down a company’s patents Monday on two genes linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer in a ruling that was being closely watched in the medical research community.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet challenging whether anyone can hold patents on human genes was expected to have broad implications for the biotechnology industry and genetics-based medical research.

Sweet said he invalidated the patents because DNA’s existence in an isolated form does not alter the fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes.

He rejected arguments that it was acceptable to grant patents on DNA sequences as long as they are claimed in the form of “isolated DNA.”

He said he used “long recognized principles of molecular biology and genetics” to resolve the claims.

Last March, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation sued Myriad Genetics Inc., based in Salt Lake City, the University of Utah Research Foundation and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Myriad Genetics Inc. sells the only BRCA gene test, which costs up to $3,000.

Some doctors and researchers contend that this monopoly has long held up not only competing, cheaper tests but has also hindered gene-based research.