Mary Beth Tung

Recent Articles by The Prometheus Decision: No Worries, No Problem

The Prometheus Decision: No Worries, No Problem

Unlike many in the biotech community I do not think the Prometheus decision will break the biotech industry or even seriously affect it. Much like the car mechanic in a small Caribbean island told me when my engine light came on in my rental car, “no worries, no problem!” I believe the holding in Prometheus prevents what could be a future legal quagmire, where overly-broad patents could serve to block entire fields of practice and create an enforcement nightmare in which ghosts of legal uncertainty and licensing ambiguities would haunt hospital hallways, R&D labs, boardrooms, and investment entities throughout the country. If the Prometheus decision would have gone the other way, it would not have been status quo, but rather been fairly harmful to future innovation.

Myriad: Isolated DNA claims from “ball bats in trees,” and “kidneys” to “magic microscopes.”

The basic argument in Myriad is whether DNA that is isolated from the chromosomes is statutory subject matter, or whether it is a product of nature. The stakes are high in the Myriad case, since the isolated DNA claimed by Myriad encodes mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 proteins that can be used to detect breast cancer. Myriad has the only test offered in the United States because of its aggressive enforcement of its several patents. The numerous plaintiffs in the case speak to the core of the patent versus non-patent debate: whether patents actually “promote the progress of science and useful arts” as required in the U.S. Constitution. Myriad and other companies heavily reliant on biotechnology patents, would support the argument that strong patent enforcement allows companies which have invested millions or billions in assay or drug development for clinical use to recoup their investment and provide a return for investors. The plaintiffs would argue that such patents not only hinder the useful arts, but also endanger lives and/or drives up the cost of providing potentially life-saving testing and treatment.