Hearing to begin in controversial gene patent case

The test case assessing the validity of patent claims directed towards genetic material will begin in the Federal Court next week. Cancer Voices Australia and Mrs Yvonne D’Arcy, a breast cancer sufferer, filed an application on 8 June 2010 seeking to invalidate three of the patent claims in one of four Australian patents co-owned by Myriad Genetics, Centre de Recherce de Chul and The Cancer Institute (Japan). Local exclusive licensee Genetic Technologies Limited is also a respondent in the case. The claims in question concern BRCA1 and BRCA2, two genes for which certain mutations are strongly associated with increased breast and ovarian cancer risk, and their application in genetic tests.

In July 2011, the United States Court of Appeals upheld Myriad Genetics’ US patent rights in an equivalent case, finding that genes could be patented.   ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation subsequently petitioned the US Supreme Court in December 2011 to have the decision overturned.

Nevertheless, the outcome of this landmark Australian case will have significant implications for the biotechnology industry. The case is scheduled to be heard on Monday 20 February by Justice Nicholas. Further updates will be provided in due course.