Constructing narratives of heroism and villainy: case study of Myriads BRACAnalysis® compared to Genentechs Herceptin®Report as inadecuate

Constructing narratives of heroism and villainy: case study of Myriads BRACAnalysis® compared to Genentechs Herceptin® - Download this document for free, or read online. Document in PDF available to download.

Genome Medicine

, 5:8

Using and abusing evidence in science and health policy


BackgroundThe development of Herceptin is welcomed as a major advance in breast cancer treatment, while Myriad-s development of BRACAnalysis is a widely used diagnostic. However useful and successful this product is, its presence in the public eye is tainted by predominantly negative press about gene patenting and business practices.

DiscussionWhile retrospection invites a sharp contrast between Genentech-s triumphal narrative of scientific achievement and Myriad-s public image as a controversial monopolist, a comparative history of these companies- products reveals two striking consistencies: patents and public discontent. Despite these similarities, time has reduced the narrative to that of hero versus villain: Genentech is lauded - at least for the final outcome of the Herceptin story - as a corporate good citizen, Myriad as a ruthless mercenary. Since patents undergird both products yet the narratives are so different, the stories raise the question: why have patents taken the fall as the scapegoat in current biotechnology policy debate?

SummaryA widely publicized lawsuit and accompanying bad press have cast Myriad as a villain in the evolving narrative of biotechnology. While the lawsuit suggests that this villainy is attributable to Myriad-s intellectual property, we suggest through a comparative case study that, at least in the Myriad case, it is not simply about the patents but also other business strategies the company chose to pursue. Patents were a necessary but not sufficient cause of controversy.

AbbreviationsBCABreast Cancer Action

BICBreast Cancer Information Core

CAFCCourt of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

FDAFood and Drug Administration

FORCEFacing our Risk of Cancer Empowered

NBCCNational Breast Cancer Coalition

NCINational Cancer Institute

SECSecurities and Exchange Commission

USPTOUS Patent and Trademark Office.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-gm412 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: A Lane Baldwin - Robert Cook-Deegan


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