Myriad Genetics is a pharmaceutical company in Utah that obtained patents on the genes BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, which are tested to determine heightened risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Six of these patents are being challenged in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU.
Arguing that genes should not be patentable, the ACLU filed suit in 2009 in federal court in Manhattan on behalf of the College of American Pathologists, the American College of Medical Genetics, several research organizations and even individual patients. The co-defendant along with Myriad Genetics is the University of Utah Research Foundation, which supported the original research.
Myriad Genetics claims, based on its patents, an exclusive right to test women for unhealthy mutations in the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, which increases the risk of breast or ovarian cancer removed. Critics argue that no one should be able to patent genes, and legislation has been introduced into Congress to make it easier to challenge patents.