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Companies Feud Over Prenatal Patents

Publication Date: 
October 11, 2013
The Recorder
Julia Love

Stanford Law Professor Hank Greely weighs in on a dispute between two medical companies regarding prenatal companies in a Recorder artlcle by Julia Love.

They may be in the business of new life, but prenatal testing companies are fighting to the death in Northern District patent cases.

The brawl involves four life sciences companies, an army of elite lawyers, half a dozen patents and two high-profile universities. At stake, say those watching, is the future of non-invasive prenatal testing, which screens for genetic disorders using a mother's blood sample, reducing the need for riskier procedures like amniocentesis.


"If a company emerges with a dominant patent position, the testing is likely to be more expensive, more slowly adopted and less subject to quality competition," said Hank Greely, a law professor at Stanford University. "I'm rooting against any company that is seeking a patent monopoly."


The companies were staking claims in a burgeoning segment of the diagnostics industry. The market for prenatal testing market is worth an estimated $1.3 billion a year, according to researchers at Stanford and Duke University. Non-invasive options promise to expand the market, Stanford's Greely said.

"It could lead to millions of women and millions of fetuses getting prenatal genetic testing, when now only a few tens of thousands do," he said.


With Sequenom's motion for a preliminary injunction before Illston once more, the judge may still decline to issue a sales ban, but it will be tougher, said Stanford's Greely. "They had to have been doing cartwheels at Sequenom when they saw the Federal Circuit decision," he said.