We were part of an international effort to find the breast cancer genes in the 1990s when Myriad saw what we'd done, raised the extra £40m needed to name the gene, and beat us there.
Now, in addition to owning the patents on the gene tests, it wants to keep its database of DNA variations a trade secret. It will be increasingly important to know which sequence variations in DNA are significant for disease risk. The best way to do this will be through accumulating sequence and clinical data about individuals and their families – data that, through their testing, Myriad holds.
We should remember that Myriad's patents on the BRCA genes would have been difficult or impossible without building on a great deal of international publicly-funded research. Companies should be obliged to put such data in the public domain.
Professor Sir Bruce Ponder of Cambridge University led the research consortium that laid the groundwork for the discovery of the BRCA breast cancer genes