Constructing narratives of heroism and villainy: Case study of Myriad's BRACAnalysis® compared to Genentech's Herceptin®

A. L. Baldwin, Robert Cook-Deegan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Background: The 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.Discussion: While 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?Summary: A 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalGenome Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 31 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

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