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Published by:
ESSEC Business School (2009)
24 pages
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Generalised experience


This is the first of a two-case series (709-025-1 and 709-029-1). Myriad Genetics, a US-based biotech company, owns three patents on breast cancer related genes. The company holds a monopoly on gene detection techniques and commercialises diagnostic tests globally, both to practitioners and to individuals through the Internet. This patent position is strong in the US, however, since 2002 it has been fiercely challenged by a European consortium led by a dozen research institutes and hospitals in France, the UK, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. What were the underlying motivations fuelling each party? Was it about greed and market share? Was it ethical resistance to widespread patenting of human genes? Was it about continental protectionism, to protect European national health services from becoming dependent on an American company? And what about Myriad''s investment in research to identify those genes? Does the company deserve a reward for developing and distributing a genetic test that contributes to disease prevention? Is Myriad''s genetic test fully reliable? Available on the Internet in 2009 for $3,100, is the test affordable to a large number of women worldwide? Lastly, will these patents boost or impede scientific research on breast cancer?


Biotechnology; Patent; Health care; Direct-to-consumer advertising; Genetic test; Health insurance; Biogenetics; Research and development (R&D); Corporate social responsibility (CSR); Personalised medicine; Royalties and licensing; Intellectual property; Marketing strategy; Public relations; Joint ventures
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