Regarding Jeffrey A. Rosenfeld and Christopher E. Mason’s April 7 Sunday Opinions commentary, “Who owns your DNA? Not who you think.”:
The patents for which Mr. Rosenfeld and Mr. Mason criticized my company were essential to developing diagnostic tools that have been used by more than 1 million women to understand their hereditary risks of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. We did not patent human genes from anyone’s body. Rather, our patents protect synthetic molecules created in the lab. This is no different than thousands of other patents issued in the past 30 years.
Were these molecules derived in part from natural material? Sure. But that is true of many patents. Labs routinely turn naturally found molecules into innovative medicines and get patent protection.
Simply put, the U.S. patent system made Myriad’s tests possible. Our research cost more than $500 million, and it took 17 years for us to get to the break-even point. Notably, our tests are faster and more reliable than those available in Europe, where patent protection is less robust. Our tests are also accessible; some 95 percent of patients get insurance coverage, and we offer the test for free to those who cannot afford it. Our patents have also promoted additional research; 18,000 scientists have studied the genes, resulting in 10,000 published papers.
The issue before the Supreme Court is greater than my company and our patents. If isolated DNA molecules cannot be patented, the consequences for the life sciences — and for innovation — could be devastating.
Peter D. Meldrum, Salt Lake City
The writer is president and chief executive of Myriad Genetics.