[Ip-health] Andrew Pollack on Mryiad's new reliance upon trade secrets and proprietary data for cancer diagnostics services

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Wed Aug 24 12:58:12 PDT 2011

Andrew Pollack as a long article about Mryiad in the NYT today.  The whole
article is worth reading.  I found particularly interesting the discussion
of the use of proprietary data and databases, in terms of maintaining market
power for cancer diagnostics.   Jamie


Andrew Pollack, "Despite Gene Patent Victory, Myriad Genetics Faces
Challenges," New York Times, August 24, 2011


The company also plans to rely less on patents and more on trade secrets.
Because it has done so much more testing than anyone else, Myriad has more
information on which of the thousands of possible mutations in the two genes
actually raise the risk of getting cancer.

Myriad used to share such information with a public database maintained by
the National Institutes of Health, and it cooperated with academic
scientists trying to analyze the mutations. But a few years ago, the company
quietly stopped contributing and cooperating, in favor of building its own

An academic consortium, relying on data from European labs or from
individual patients, is trying to catch up, but “it’s kind of slow going,”
said Sean Tavtigian, a former Myriad scientist who is now an associate
professor of oncological sciences at the University of Utah and is involved
in the consortium.

Myriad, which is based in Salt Lake City, is hoping to use that advantage
first in Europe, where it will open a testing laboratory next year.

“If I had my druthers, I would not want to go into a new market in a
heavy-handed fashion, trying to enforce patents,” Peter D. Meldrum, Myriad’s
chief executive, told analysts in January. Instead, he said the company
would exploit its quicker turnaround time for testing and its “vastly
superior information.”

Myriad executives have said that when a European laboratory finds a mutation
in either of the two genes, 20 to 40 percent of the time it does not know if
the mutation raises the risk of cancer. They say that Myriad’s rate of
uncertain findings is just 3 percent.

Daniel B. Vorhaus, a New York attorney and editor of the Genomics Law
Report, a Web site, said there are ethical questions about whether Myriad
should be withholding the mutation information, important for public health,
that it has gathered by dint of its patents in order to essentially extend
its monopoly beyond the life of the patents.

Mark C. Capone, the president of Myriad’s laboratory division, said in an
interview that the company had invested heavily in characterizing the
various mutations. He said that the company became uncomfortable sharing its
information with a public database when it realized the information might be
used to compete against it.


James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
http://www.keionline.org, +1.202.332.2670, US Mobile: +1.202.361.3040,
Geneva Mobile: +41.76.413.6584, efax: +1.888.245.3140.

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