The European Patent Office (EPO) this week upheld a patent owned by Utah-based biotech firm Myriad Genetics for breast cancer susceptibility testing related to a particular BRCA2 mutation, despite opposition from geneticists who said the patent discriminated against Ashkenazi Jews.

Myriad's patent EP 785216 originally included much wider diagnostic applications, but in advance of the hearings this month had rewritten the original claims to focus on identification of one particular mutation–6974delT–"for diagnosing a predisposition to breast cancer in Ashkenazi Jewish women."

One in 100 Ashkenazi Jewish women carries the mutation which predisposes her to breast cancer and confers a 65% to 70% chance of developing the disease, according to the European Society of Human Genetics. A statement from the society said this was the first time that a racial or ethnic group has been specifically singled out as a diagnostic target in this way.

Geneticists from 18 national societies, including...

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