Myriad Genetics CEO Claims He Owns Your Genes – Forbes

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The CEO of Myriad Genetics wrote a letter to the Washington Post claiming that his company’s patents on the breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, were the source of innovation and have benefitted the public.

Meldrum also throws out the unproven claim that Myriad offers it for free to those who cannot afford it.  Really?  Who decides if someone can afford it? If a woman can scrape together the $4000 with great hardship, does Myriad give her a break on the price?  I doubt it.  And what does this have to do with Myriad’s supposed right to own your genes?

Fourth, Meldrum makes the remarkable claim that “Our patents have also promoted additional research; 18,000 scientists have studied the genes, resulting in 10,000 published papers.”

This is just unfounded bragging.  Even the most wildly successful scientists would be very careful about claiming that that 10,000 papers have been based on their work.  In the case of Myriad, this is just false.  If you do a PubMed search for BRCA1, you can indeed find over 9,600 papers, as I did today.  However, there is no evidence whatsoever that these papers were even remotely supported by Myriad’s patents.  It is far more likely that the patents prevented additional research on the BRCA genes.  The vast majority of research on these genes was supported by the public, which in the U.S. means by the National Institutes of Health.  Meldrum’s boastful claim is absurd.

It’s worth noting that the original paper describing the link between BRCA1 and breast cancer was published by a multi-institutional team from the University of Utah and other places, who were supported by multiple grants from the NIH and from the Canadian government.  Myriad Genetics subsequently licensed the patent rights from Utah, and has used them ever since to maintain its monopoly and prevent others from developing tests on the BRCA genes.  To claim that its patents promote innovation is pure nonsense.

The bottom line is that no one invented your genes, and no private company should be able to tell you that you can’t even read your own DNA.  Today, you can get all of your DNA sequenced for less than the cost of the Myriad test. Using free software (developed by my lab), you can scan that DNA for mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2. And no company should be able to tell you not to.”

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