Judging by the 15% swing in Myriad Genetics (NASDAQ:MYGN), investors changed their minds after further digesting the Supreme Court’s Thursday ruling regarding “products of Nature.” Once the market had time to gauge the implications, it found itself questioning the future prospects of this segment of Myriad’s business despite the company’s assurance that the ruling is largely insignificant.

Here’s what you should know about the case and the ruling in order to make your own judgment.

Unless you spend much of your research time in the biotech space, you’ve likely never heard of Myriad Genetics. This $2.5 billion company focuses on developing predictive tests that gauge a person’s genetic predisposition to certain cancers and the level of reaction to certain drugs in order to optimize dosage, primarily in cancer patients. 

In its fiscal third quarter, the company reported a 21% year over year increase in revenue to $156.5 million. The BRACAnalysis test, the subject of Thursday Supreme Court ruling, produced $115.4 million in the quarter—a year over year increase of nine%. 

SEE: The Ups And Downs Of Biotechnology

BRCA 1 and BRCA 2
At the center of the multiyear legal battle are the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes. These are human genes that belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors. In healthy cells, the genes help to prevent uncontrolled cell growth. If the genes mutate, a person is at much higher risk for developing hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. 

In the late 1990s, Myriad patented these two genes and developed a test, called the BRACAnalysis test, to screen for these mutated genes.

The Ruling
For years, scientists and other biotech firms have taken Myriad to court claiming that patenting something that naturally occurs in nature shouldn’t be allowed. Lower courts had allowed the patents to stand but on Thursday, the Supreme Court overturned the rulings and, in a unanimous decision, said that “products of nature” cannot be patented.

This seemed to be a catastrophic ruling for Myriad but the second part of the ruling upheld the company’s cDNA patents. cDNA, or Complimentary DNA is artificially produced and therefore, not a product of nature. Myriad uses cDNA as part of the BRACAnalysis testing process. 

How This Affects Myriad
According to the company, this will have little impact on BRACAnalysis revenue. It claims that out of the 24 patents associated with the test, only 5 were invalidated by the ruling.

Ronald Rogers, a Myriad spokesman said, “We don’t expect today’s decision to impact our business operations.” But judging by the 15% swing in the stock that started around 2:00 p.m. on the day of the ruling, Wall Street isn’t so optimistic. The University of Washington and Ambry have sold DNA tests that looked a numerous genes linked to higher cancer risk but because of the patent, the BRCA genes could not be included in those tests. As a result of the ruling, these and other tests can include screening for these genes. It’s not expected to take long to add these genes to the tests.

Shortly following the ruling, a Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX) spokesperson said, “We now intend to validate and offer a BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 test service to physicians and patients later this year.” 

Explosion in Popularity
Since actress Angelina Jolie revealed that she had a double mastectomy as a result of testing positive for the mutated gene, genetic counselors have been overwhelmed with calls. Bloomberg reports that at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the waiting list has jumped to five months—up from two months before Jolie’s announcement. 

Similar reports from healthcare providers around the national indicate that the popularity of the test is soaring as a result of such a public figure telling her story.

Take Action
Myriad has had a virtual monopoly on the test but with the Supreme Court ruling, that is likely to change but that doesn’t mean that it’s a large-scale blow to the company. With its cDNA patents still in place, that may still allow the company to differentiate its tests from competitors.

It will take time for those competitors to enter the market place and with the recent coverage as a result of the ruling and the Angelina Jolie story, genetic cancer testing as gained a lot of press and has healthcare providers scrambling to meet the demand.

This could be a positive catalyst for Myriad, Quest, and for companies exposed to this space including Geron Corporation (NASDAQ:GERN) and StemCells Inc. (NASDAQ:STEM).

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Tim Parker had no position in the above named securities.

Related Articles
  1. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: Direxion Daily Healthcare Bull 3X

    Learn about the Direxion Daily Healthcare Bull. This is a leveraged ETF that tracks the health care sector, which is a leader in this bull market.
  2. Stock Analysis

    2 Catalysts Driving Intrexon to All-Time Highs

    Examine some of the main reasons for Intrexon stock tripling in price between 2014 and 2015, and consider the company's future prospects.
  3. Stock Analysis

    Net Neutrality: Pros and Cons

    The fight over net neutrality has become an amazing spectacle. But at its core, it's yet another skirmish in cable television's war to remain relevant.
  4. Investing

    The Rise of Corporate Venture Capital

    After the success of Google Ventures, corporate venture capital is an increasingly popular diversification and hedging tool for many large corporations.
  5. Personal Finance

    A Day in the Life of an Equity Research Analyst

    What does an equity research analyst do on an everyday basis?
  6. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: ProShares UltraPro Nasdaq Biotech

    Obtain information about an ETF offerings that provides leveraged exposure to the biotechnology industry, the ProShares UltraPro Nasdaq Biotech Fund.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: PowerShares S&P 500 Downside Hedged

    Find out about the PowerShares S&P 500 Downside Hedged ETF, and learn detailed information about characteristics, suitability and recommendations of it.
  8. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: ProShares Large Cap Core Plus

    Learn information about the ProShares Large Cap Core Plus ETF, and explore detailed analysis of its characteristics, suitability and recommendations.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares Core Growth Allocation

    Find out about the iShares Core Growth Allocation Fund, and learn detailed information about its characteristics, suitability and recommendations.
  10. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares MSCI USA Minimum Volatility

    Learn about the iShares MSCI USA Minimum Volatility exchange-traded fund, which invests in low-volatility equities traded on the U.S. stock market.
  1. Equity

    The value of an asset less the value of all liabilities on that ...
  2. Hard-To-Sell Asset

    An asset that is extremely difficult to dispose of either due ...
  3. Sucker Yield

    When an investor has essentially risked all of his capital for ...
  4. Phenotype

    An organism’s observable characteristics or traits.
  5. Pharmacology

    The study of how drugs affect people. More formally, pharmacology ...
  6. Molecular Biology

    The study of biology and biological processes at the fundamental ...
  1. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What types of capital are not considered share capital?

    The money a business uses to fund operations or growth is called capital, and there are a number of capital sources available. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between issued share capital and subscribed share capital?

    The difference between subscribed share capital and issued share capital is the former relates to the amount of stock for ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!