Company claims Utah's Myriad Genetics maintains illegal monopoly

Lawsuits • California's Ambry Genetics shoots back with dueling lawsuit over gene testing.
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A California company sued by Myriad Genetics over its competing test for genes related to breast cancer is striking back with allegations that the patents the Utah-based company is relying on are invalid and that it is illegally monopolizing the market for such products.

The allegations by Ambry Genetics of Aliso Viejo, Calif., were filed in U.S. District Court for Utah in response to a lawsuit against it by Myriad shortly after Ambry announced it had begun offering genetics tests that compete with Myriad's.

Ambry and another company, Gene by Gene of Houston, began offering tests that compete with Myriad's after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down parts of five patents Myriad holds related to genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. Mutations of those genes indicate a high probability a patient will suffer from hereditary breast or ovarian cancer and detection of them can guide efforts to prevent the cancers or treatment of them.

Myriad also sued Gene by Gene last month, asserting that the Utah company still holds valid patents that Gene by Gene is infringing upon.

Now Ambry is countersuing, saying some of Myriad's patents are invalid under the Supreme Court decision in the Myriad case and another gene-related case.

Ambry contends Myriad is merely relying on standard lab practices to copy and sequence genetic materials and those methods are not eligible to be patented.

"As a result, Myriad now seeks to wrongfully enforce a de facto monopoly on the unpatentable genes to the detriment of women in the United States," Ambry's attorneys write in the company's counterclaim.

They also claim Myriad filed the lawsuit in part because Ambry was depositing patient test results in a public data base that could help researchers develop competing tests.

Myriad did not return an email Friday afternoon seeking comment on the allegations.

Myriad's lawsuit against Ambry and Gene by Gene have been combined into one case that is being presided over by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby.

tharvey@sltrib .com

Twitter: @TomHarveySltrib