Myriad Supreme Court Ruling Leading to New Gene Tests

Morning Business Memo:

New and cheaper forms of genetic testing for cancer and other diseases might be the result of Thursday's patent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the court threw out some patents for Myriad Genetics, effectively ending the firm's two-decade monopoly on testing for genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

The decision means companies cannot patent parts of naturally occurring human genes, but the court did say synthetically created DNA could be patented.

Several labs have already announced they plan to offer genetic testing for breast cancer risk. More genetic testing for rare diseases might become available. Quest Diagnostics, a leading provider of medical tests, says the ruling will open opportunities to develop new tests.

Myriad Genetics makes the only tests for two breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. The Supreme Court decision is likely to change that. "It appears that it will allow the market to open up so that other laboratories can offer the test," said Rebecca Nagy, a genetics counselor at Ohio State University and president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

And that should make the tests cheaper and available to more women, she said. Hours after the ruling, one company, DNATraits, part of Houston-based Gene By Gene Ltd., said it would offer BRCA gene testing in the United States for $995, less than one-third of the current price.

Positive U.S. economic news, including a solid gain for May retail sales, led to a stock market turnaround in Thursday's trading. After three straight days of losses, the averages snapped back and overseas markets are up this morning. The Dow Jones index rose 181 points, a gain of 1.2 percent. There were similar gains for the other averages. Fears of a possible Federal Reserve policy change led to a turbulent week for financial markets.

The recent increase in mortgage rates could take the wind out of the recent refinancing boom. With average rates for 30-year mortgages now above 4 percent, refinancing applications have dropped sharply. The refinancing business has been highly profitable for many big banks.

The stage is set for more competition between Airbus and its U.S. rival Boeing in the long-haul, wide-body aircraft market. An Airbus A350 has taken off on its maiden flight, marking a key step on the path to full certification. More than half of the A350s, Airbus' first all-new plane in eight years, is made up of lightweight carbon-fiber designed to save on jet fuel, which makes up half the cost of long-haul flights.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio Twitter: daviesabc 212-456-5100