Gene Patent Showdown For Myriad Comes to a Head


Should a company get to patent your genetic DNA? That is the question when it comes to Myriad Genetics Inc. (NASDAQ: MYGN). This company and its stock are at the center of a multi-year debate that is coming to a head now. Myriad has seen its shares gyrate based upon headlines and today is a classic example of this as the argument is up for debate today at the Supreme Court.

A headline called "Supreme Court Justices Skeptical Extracted Human DNA Could Be Patented" from Dow Jones was when the shares were up almost 5% and then the shares were up 7.5% at $28.06. Frankly, we are surprised that the stock was even allowed to trade today at all. FDA panel decision days are usually met with stock halts to prevent information leaks and to prevent abnormal trading on that day. It should have probably been the same for such an important case at the Supreme Court level.

If you apply patent law to biotech and to traditional business law, it seems pretty clear. The method to reach an end can be patented. The blend of compounds or ingredients have also withstood patent fights. Patenting an idea has been hard to do. Pfizer patented Viagra for erectile dysfunction, but it did not win a patent on curing erectile dysfunction. Lipitor had a patent for cholesterol treatment, but the broad treatment of lowering cholesterol was not the patent.

Patenting compounds of how you would target, analyze, and even how you would mutate or alter genes would seem to be a fair and comparable patent test. Simply patenting an isolated gene, that is another matter entirely.

Mryiad's future is not entirely hung up on this case, but the whenever this ruling is made it will decide the fate of many future genes and genetic analysis for what could be more than decade. As it stands today, Thomson Reuters has estimates as follows:

  • 2013 earnings at $1.58 per share on sales of $583.7 million;

  • 2014 earnings at $1.77 per share on sales of $638.4 million.

At the time we stopped this article Myriad Genetics was up 5.8% at $27.62 against a 52-week trading range of $22.02 to $31.80 and against a consensus analyst range from Thomson Reuters of $30.30.

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