PATENTS – Human gene ruling reversal

A federal court said Friday that human genes can be patented, reversing a lower court’s ruling that involved a test for breast cancer but which could have had big implications for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

Judge Alan Lourie’s ruling says the genes can be patented because the isolated DNA has a “markedly different chemical structure” from DNA within the body. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on genes for almost 30 years.

“The ability to visualize a DNA molecule through a microscope, or by any other means, when it is bonded to other genetic material, is worlds apart from possessing an isolated DNA molecule that is in hand and usable,” Lourie wrote for a 2-to-1 majority. “It is the difference between knowledge of nature and reducing a portion of nature to concrete form, the latter activity being what the patent laws seek to encourage and protect.”

The lawsuit concerned two patents held by Myriad Genetics Inc. of Salt Lake City. Myriad’s BRACAnalysis test looks at gene sequences linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The American Civil Liberties Union argued that genes couldn’t be patented, and in March 2010, a New York district court agreed.

EARNINGS – Amgen 2nd-quarter earnings dip 3%l

Biotech drugmaker Amgen said Friday that its second-quarter earnings slipped 3 percent on increased research spending and sales costs for product launches plus falling revenue from a key drug.

The results beat Wall Street estimates and the company said it expects to reach the upper end of its guidance for the full year. Amgen shares rose $1.27, or 2.4 percent, to close at $54.70 Friday.

The Thousand Oaks (Ventura County) company reported net income of $1.17 billion ($1.25 per share) in the three months that ended June 30. That compares with $1.2 billion ($1.25) a year ago.

Revenue climbed 4 percent to $3.96 billion from $3.8 billion a year earlier. Analysts expected $3.77 billion in revenue.

The company’s research and development costs rose 26 percent to $808 million to pay for late-stage clinical trials.

TELECOM – AT&T to limit data speeds

AT&T says it’s going to start limiting speeds for the 5 percent of its customers with “unlimited” data smart-phone plans who clog the airwaves the most.

The company said Friday that it will put the measure into effect Oct. 1.

T-Mobile USA already throttles users who go over certain limits for data consumption.

AT&T stopped signing up new customers for “unlimited” plans last year. Instead, it now lets heavy users pay extra when they go over a certain data allotment. Verizon Wireless also recently stopped signing up new customers for unlimited service.

AT&T says it will warn users who approach joining the top 5 percent, and anyone subject to the speed limits will experience them at least until the next billing cycle starts.